by Ben Weilerstein, social media coordinator for the Western MA team
We arrived in Amherst after hot, sweaty and exhausting ride up many hills. I’ve been to many times before, since I have family in the area, but never by bicycle, so I hadn’t experienced the breathtaking beauty of the woods and countryside along our route there (from Holyoke) nor the breath-taking rise in elevation. I also gained a deep appreciation for the mostly level Western MA rail trail that we followed much of the way there.
When we arrived in Amherst, at the Grace Episcopal Church, I and the three teammates with whom we’d come laid down our bikes and our bodies and stretched in the grass. It was late afternoon on a Thursday, and the sun had only just begun to dim. A long period of lounging on the lawn outside of the church passed while we waited for the rest of our team and the key to the church to return. When our two teammates, who had left Holyoke earlier, finally returned from a grocery run, there was a happy reunion. “We missed you!” was flung about a few times from mouth to mind, or heart, wherever statements like that are stored. I thought for a brief moment about how close my team had come and how closely we spent our time together that even a few hours of separation was worthy of that phrase, “I missed you.”
Only a few weeks prior, I knew only one of my current teammates, and a year prior, none. My life was now so thoroughly intertwined with these 5 others; in our work, as we planned events, schedules, chores, petitions, and lots of other work together; in our social lives, as we spent all our free time, meals, waking and drifting off to sleep moments together; and in a third, more abstract way, as we shared our identities, motivations, and beliefs with each other in ever-deeper conversations.
We entered the church, unloaded our bikes and unpacked food in the small kitchen. In addition to what Ben L and Stephen had purchased at the supermarket, donations of food from some very generous members of the church and residents of Amherst filled the space. Hungry, we prepared and ate our dinner, and then tired, we went to bed. I struggled to sleep, so I sat awake staring at the dark flecks that must have been bugs swarming the street lights outside of the church and listened to the gentle breathing of my teammates around me. It’s been hard, at times, living so closely with a small group. Ultimately, however, I am so incredibly grateful that these amazing, inspiring and brilliant individuals are a part of my life.