Harriet Tubman at Trader Joe’s

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I bought myself a card yesterday because I liked what it said. I like words. Words that are inspiring are even better. Sometimes I read something inspirational and I think about it all day. On a lucky day, I will notice those words being put into action. Today was one of those days.

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars and to change the world. —Harriet Tubman

Those were the words on the card at Trader Joe’s that I could not resist owning. Upon returning from the store, I immediately placed the card on top of our piano for all to read. Such a grand notion, changing the world and all. Staring at the card I can’t help but think of an oppressed woman still having the strength to utter such grace, hope, and possibility! (I also give props to Trader Joe’s for carrying such rhetoric.)

Today I walked out into the world with this quote repeating itself in my thoughts. It just so happened I was returning to a cycling class that I had not attended in a while. It’s taught by one of my favorite instructors. She is from the U.K. and carries an accent that rings with foreign resonance. In any class she teaches, she finds some way to remind me of how great my country is, of how great America is. Today, as she flashed her smile at the beginning of class, she asked us where our smiles were. “How can anyone move their body without smiling?” she said. “Don’t you know that America is the land of beautiful smiles?” Finally, I smiled. She made me smile. I didn’t feel like smiling, but I smiled.

She peddled on in front of us describing our imaginary ascent. As the “climb” became more rigorous, she started talking about how today’s class would help train her students to ride hills outside. Um, I will go up a hill on foot, but on bike? Why bother? I’ll just end up pushing up the hill anyway. But something about her repeated references and the invitation to join her on October 25 to ride up this hill became very inspirational to me.

One trip up a hill. One Monday in October. She was planning to meet her participants to ride their bikes up a steep hill. It was just one hill. Not a long-distance ride or a half marathon. Not a critical mass of riders spreading an environmental message. Just a baby step to change someone’s personal world. A person with a new bike. A person who maybe hasn’t ever ridden up a big hill because it always looked too scary. She was willing to meet with people who don’t usually recreate outside and take them up a hill, to change they way they thought about what their bodies were capable of.

As we rode along with her in class she pushed us to turn the tension up. Increase our speed. “Yes! This is hard! Yes! You should feel this in your body. Listen to your body thank you for moving it and working hard today! Imagine yourself at the top of that hill and see the view!” Silence. The smiles from earlier were gone. Sweat was dripping on the floor. Faces were flushed. A few people moaned. She looked right at us and said, “I guess that’s why I only have five people signed up so far!” And she smiled that encouraging grin. “Your bodies aren’t thanking you yet! You stick with me and they will, one step at a time.”

You may think that I shouldn’t classify this instructor with Harriet Tubman. Well, you are probably right. But what if we just took Ms. Tubman’s words and we used our strengths and our passions to change the world for people a little bit? This instructor loves to move. She loves to cycle outside. She loves the wind in her hair and the ascent ahead of her. She is willing to ask people to go outside and climb a small hill in the hopes that next time they will climb a little higher and challenge themselves a little more. In a way, I felt like she was changing the world a little bit for people. Just a little bit …



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