Monday, 17 September 2012

Riding (Hard) for Refuge

Okay, so here's the deal.

On a normal day, I am a writer and not a cyclist; most often I find joy between the lines of a book, not the lines on a road and if I am ever going to do any large-scale world-changing in my time it will likely be from behind a desk with pen and ink, and not by crossing the finish-line with a smile on my face and a number on my back. But September 29th is RIDE day, and RIDE day is not your regular calendar Samedi.

The vision of Ride for Refuge is simple: share the love. In a world of practicalities, that love manifests as wealth. The mission is to provide for those who cannot provide for themselves, to speak for those who are being politically and socially hushed or rejected, and to support and encourage the ones who need it most. 

This year our goal is even more personal. Teams from Camp Mini-Yo-We are riding for our Sponsorship Fund - to help kids who would never be able to come to Camp get here - to give them a place of refuge, security, love, encouragement, hope and peace. At the end of the day, half of what we raise will be invested into the larger projects that RIDE is already working on, and half will come right to camp. Win-Win-Win-Win. 

"Four wins?" Why, yes. Their organization and ours, a child or youth being blessed by your generosity and you. "Me?" Of course you. BEING awesome FEELS awesome. Try it out.

Rock this with me.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

One Naked Bug

It began with a simple, quiet little bug sitting in a still, quiet part of the African Savannah. Close by she could see many other animals grazing and drinking from a freshwater desert pool. Everything was calm and beautiful, like a great piece of art, but nothing in sight was as beautiful as Bug. 

Her shell was as blue as the deep Indian Ocean, as yellow as the tall grain, as green as the cactus and as red as the reddest of sunsets. Everyone admired her as one of the most beautiful creatures on the continent and it was her pride and joy to be thought so lovely. All day long she would sit on her rock in the shade so that the sun wouldn’t fade her shell and whenever a friendly animal would walk by she would fly through its fur and polish herself until she dazzled. Nothing was more important to her than the appearance of her shell... It was, as some say, her most defining feature.

One day, completely without any warning or time to prepare herself, Bug’s body did something VERY strange... it hiccoughed! Bug had never before in her entire life experienced a hiccough. She had never even heard of a hiccough! In fact, this was the very first case of African hiccoughs that had ever been experienced by anyone since the very beginning of the world. Bug was VERY afraid.

“Help!” she tried to call to one of her friends, but her shout sounded more like heh-culp than help, so no one paid her much attention at first. “Heh-culp! Heh-culp! Heh-culp!” cried Bug desperately as her hiccoughs began to bounce her body around on the ground. “Please! Won’t somebody heh-culp me!” Suddenly one of her hiccoughs jolted her so forcefully that Bug flew backward and crashed into her rock...

“AAHHHHHHH!!!” Bug screamed! For a moment her hiccoughs stopped out of shock. 

She was

She had crashed SO HARD into her rock that the colours from her shell had peeled right off of her! Her rock was now as blue as the deep Indian Ocean, as yellow as the tall grain, as green as the cactus and as red as the reddest of sunsets. The rock was so beautiful... and she was SO naked!!

Suddenly the giraffe came galloping over to Bug and her rock. “Bug!” cried Giraffe, his long neck swooping down to the ground with a great swoosh, “Bug! I heard your scream! What’s wrong?! Talk to me Bug! Say something!”

(He was speaking to the rock.)

“Giraffe!” pleaded Bug, “you’ve got to heh-culp me!” Giraffe looked at Bug. “Who are you?”

Bug could hardly believe her ears. “I’M BUG!” she yelled into Giraffe’s long face. “I AM BUG!” 

Giraffe gasped. “Bug! What happened to you?!”

Bug quickly explained as much as she could which, unfortunately, wasn’t very much. Giraffe tried his best to diagnose the problem but he wasn’t trained in the medical field and so was not much help. Just when he was about to give up on her, Giraffe’s body did something VERY strange...

It hiccoughed.

“HEH-culp!” yelled Giraffe as he began to run around in circles in panic. He was SO worried about his hiccoughs that for a moment his graceful limbs got tangled up and he lost control of where he was running. In one second of chaos Giraffe knocked into Bug, sending her flying for five feet! When she landed they both noticed something horrifying: Bug looked a lot like Giraffe and Giraffe was NAKED.


They screamed for twenty seconds straight before either of them could even blink. 

“Okay,” said Giraffe as soon as he caught his breath after the very long yell. “There must be some kind of scientif-HIC, logical explanation for all of this. Unfortunately, I am not a very log-HIC-al animal, and both of us failed Jungle Biology last year. We need to call in an expert!”

Giraffe and Bug did what all of the animals did when they needed to learn something; they signalled for the wisest and most medically astute of all African creatures. Both of them lay flat on their backs and stuck their tongues out because, as you know, the fastest way to find a vulture is to play dead.

Vulture showed up two minutes later. He was always on the lookout for an easy meal, but when he saw the big white blob on the ground he was sceptical to say the least. He hovered over their bodies for a moment and just as he was getting ready to settle down, Giraffe’s body hiccoughed.

“Woah!” exclaimed Vulture to the apparently dead carcases beneath him. “That was not normal!” Giraffe hiccoughed again, which sent the poor bird into fluttering hysterics. Worried that Vulture was going to fly away before he could help them, Giraffe swooshed his long neck into the air...

It was like Safari baseball. Vulture’s body let out the tiniest little bitty hiccough that had ever been hiccoughed and then PAASMAAASH! Giraffe’s neck crashed into Vulture’s body and instantly Giraffe looked like a tall, gangly and bald version of Vulture and Vulture was naked from beak to bottom. Naturally, Vulture was a little surprised.


“Please don’t pan-HIC,” said Bug with a new calmness. “Who are you?!” Vulture half-yelled, half-gasped as he stared at the little spotted creature in front of him. “I’m Bug,” said Bug, “and this is Giraffe. We need your heh-culp.” Vulture closed and opened his eyes slowly, hoping that the scene unfolding before him was just a very unusual nightmare. That was not the case. Faced with a confusing reality, Vulture took control of the whole situation.

“Well, there must be some kind of scientif-HIC, log-HIC-al explanation for all of this. Fortunately, I am a very log-HIC-al animal, and even taught Jungle Biology last year. You were right to call in an expert.” 

Vulture listened carefully while Bug and Giraffe told him their story. “I believe that the problem is a synchronous diaphragmat-HIC flutter. I have two ideas that just might work,” Vulture said in his smartest and wisest voice, “but if neither of these plans su-HIC-cceed I’m afraid we’re all going to die.”

Vulture’s first plan was that all three of them might hold their breaths. Neither Bug nor Giraffe could think of a reason as to why this would not work, and so they stood facing each other with noses and lips sealed tight. Perhaps if the animals had been able to hold their breath for long enough this remedy would have worked, however only a few seconds into the experiment a ferocious jungle cat leaped into view and sunk her claws into Vulture’s vulnerable backside! The shock of the whole situation was so great that all four of them hiccoughed simultaneously. Leopard, who had never experienced hiccoughs before in her life panicked and tried to stop herself mid-leap with no success. She tumbled into the other three knocking them over like bowling pins and landing in a tangle of claws and feathers and fur.

“AAHHHHHHH!!!” yelped Leopard as she discovered herself printless from tip to tail. “Vulture! Give me back my spots!” Vulture looked down at his body. “Well,” he said, “on to Plan B.”

Vulture explained his second plan to the group. “This is our last h-HIC-ope,” announced Vulture grimly. “We must ram into each other and jump up and down and try and get our patterns back.” Leopard and Vulture were first to test the theory and they took a running (and flying) charge at each other. Their SMASH was hard and both were stunned by the impact, but the pattern did not move. Even when the collisions happened mid hiccough their colours would not change.

“It’s hopeless!” moaned bug, rubbing her bruised shell after trying a trade with Giraffe and landing upside down in the dirt. “We’ll be stuck like this forever!”

“Should we change our names?” Giraffe asked the group, looking longingly back at his herd. “Can I still be a giraffe when I look like a vulture?” 

The question took them off guard and no one could offer an answer. They stood in miserable hiccough-interrupted silence for several minutes, until...

“Hey everybody! What’s wrong with you? Why are you all so sad?” It was Zebra, the most unusual looking animal in the whole Savannah. They all stared back at him sadly and Bug answered for all of them: “We’re all jumbled up... this is the worst day ever! I don’t even know who I am anymore!” They nodded their agreement.

Zebra stood quietly looking at the depressing clan of animals in front of him. 

“Identity crisis is nothing new to the zebras, you know. We’ve been struggling with appearance for generations! Are we white with black stripes or black with white stripes? Some of us are brown! Some are almost as patternless as you are Leopard, but that doesn’t change a thing.” The other animals seemed sceptical at best. Then Zebra had an idea. “I am going to teach you something that all Zebras learn when they are very young. I think it might help.” Zebra cleared his throat and stood up tall as he began:

“You are who you are
Not because of your skin,
Whether spotted or striped
Whether fat or quite thin.
Your self’s on the inside,
It’s the stuff you can’t see 
That says you are you
And that lets me be me.
So don’t fret about pattern!
Don’t worry ‘bout size
'Cause the fuss about external
Worth is just lies!
Take pride in your spirit
Take care of your heart
Because that’s your most
Valuable, beautiful part.”

None of the animals spoke for a moment or two, but in their faces a change was easy to see. Their eyes had gone soft and their mouths had turned up into a very different kind of smile than they had ever experienced before. 

“I feel weird,” confessed Vulture. “So do I,” added Bug. Each one nodded their heads. “So... what do we do?” asked Leopard, looking to Zebra. “Well, I do have one idea that doesn’t lead to death...”

And so, deep in the heart of the African Savannah on days that are not quite so quiet and still you can still find the effects of the Zebra’s great plan. Each animal stood in front of a stone and with all of their might each one hiccoughed their last.... 

and prowled and galloped and flew stripped clean, into the reddest of sunsets.