Posted by: Sara Hopps
Many months ago Marla asked curiously, “ WHEN you are tired and do not want to bike anymore, how will you deal with that?” At the time I answered with a generic answer for a hypothetical situation, having absolutely no idea what to expect for my upcoming summer months. My answer combined a random list of previous experiences I had of persevering through a tough task. This summer is far from the ordinary challenge one must endure through a sporting event or school project.
Biking has always been a relaxation for me; relieving any stress or anxiety with the gentle breeze, the feeling of accomplishment when climbing a steep hill, the satisfying drip of sweat down my back when a ride is over, and a likeness to a “primal scream” feeling of singing at the top of my lungs into the wind making my off pitch squeal appear to have a more calming appeal.
As we enter the halfway mark of the summer, sleep deprivation, the dreadful heat and excessive amounts of talking (my teammates are always commenting on my ability to drag out our presence at any event due to my chatting), I finally feel the need to enact some of my answer to Marla’s question about perseverance. It has come about differently than expected and dealt with in a more pleasurable way. At the time I answered with confidence that I believed in the cause on a personal and moral level and that it was an issue beyond any physical distress I would feel. My legs have not yet been sore, nor my joints too tired to bike long distances with the rear end “heavy load” I have attached to my bike.
Tuesday morning I was sitting in the State House general assembly room with my team MassAcceleration and two contacts we had made from Salem, Lynn Nadeau with Healthlink and David Lands from Greenpeace. I entered the room completely unsure of the routine of such an official governmental procedure. I was expected to make my first testimony in front of my state representative but feeling scattered from having my leatherman taken away from me at the door by security and dripping sweat. We sat ourselves directly in front in the spirit of our enthusiastic community partner Lynn to sit and wait for our opportunity to show our passion for the bill we chose to testify for, a bill to regulate coal ash that has failed to pass for nine years now.
Despite the horrifying illustration of coal ash contaminating the Wenham Lake, the water supply to my town, the bill to protect my drinking water remains un-passed. I sat in the cold, dark basement room with all too many business-like characteristics, and individuals who are too concerned with money and overindulgences, those who I consider my enemy.
My head was throbbing. Lack of sleep had hit like the bumps in the road, sudden and unpleasant. My stomach was not cooperating with my head and I was thoroughly confused about how long I would be sitting there trapped in the front row waiting to be called to testify, not fully able to sit up straight or think. Uncertain of how soon I would be called to the table to testify, I persisted through each panel in a very uncomfortable state.
Earlier that morning Eliza and I prepared for how the testimony process would pan out with timing, etiquette and delivery. We stepped outside the Statehouse, instantly feeling the impact of the 95-degree weather, to coach one another on voice projection, and expressing our eager passion…to a much nicer looking bush than the intimidating representatives we were about to encounter.
Re-entering the stagnant room I looked at my teammates exhausting gazes at the representatives positioned before us, eager to know a schedule to plan our upcoming journey to Waltham, a journey we had already postponed to attend this hearing. Our uncomfortable position in the front, not conducive to sneaking out the back to discuss our plans led to a note sheet composed of questions and concerns. Reluctantly I voiced my need to go outside and compose myself to feel better for the upcoming testimony. Sam immediately became her concerned self along with my other teammates throughout the day (even later, preparing to leave for Waltham they would not let me take a trailer). Sam took me outside, sitting with me and feeding me the appropriate number of carrots to make me feel better. My whole team persisted throughout the day due to the lingering importance of the upcoming hearing, eating stale bread for lunch and other scraps of food.
Throughout the day I continued to receive beams of support for our overall work as a program and our message. Pat Gozemba, a powerful contact in Salem who is instrumental in the action against the coal plant, stepped out of the statehouse from a meeting with John Keenan the Salem Representative who is supporting a natural gas plant to replace the coal plant, as Eliza and I stood there talking to the bushes. After excusing her own presence at the hearing for another meeting Pat walked off happy to hear we would later represent her in our testimony. Craig also sent us off that morning from the Better Future Project headquarters with his inspirational aura and assurance that such actions were critical.
Long awaited, Eliza and I were called to speak. I ripped the mint from my mouth holding it in my hand; aware I would not be able to speak eloquently with a wad in my cheek. Our message was short but it was clear that we were being heard. The chair graciously thanked us and was encouraged by our energy. He made a snide comparison of the unenthusiastic testimonies prior and the contrasting liveliness of ours. A youthful presence was absent that day from the hearing room. Youth brings energy, and energy propels positive change.
It was on the ride to Waltham later that night over a series of thrusting bumps on the bike path that I realized the supportive system I had surrounding me. My team members are the zealous force behind each day having a meaningful outcome. Our charisma noticed by those we just meet lends to a powerful dialogue whether on camera or conversation, contributing to our message and image. My team members along with the community partners we work with have fulfilled a much-needed interaction in my life blossoming with similar thoughts and obsessions (as some may consider our commitment to the movement).
Along the bike path to Waltham, after a long day in the statehouse and heat, as my brains quickly transformed from an omelet to scrambled eggs with the bumping on my headache, I remained ecstatic of our impression on the representatives and the thought we were making a difference everyday we woke up.
To answer Marla’s question now, I will persevere through my scrambled brains with the understanding there are other incredible, impassioned people, analogous to my four fellow “bicyclists” who hop on their bikes everyday to challenge the way we all live our lives and promote the better future we all deserve.