18 years ago, together with my fellow year 11 classmates, we decided to do something out of the box to build bridges between communities in South Africa. It was a crazy idea at the time and it turned out to be one of the most enlightening experiences of my life! I recall going to the principal’s office and relaying our initial idea to him. He thought we had all lost the plot and said the idea was impossible to achieve. Like most teenagers, we took the rejection as a motivation to prove him wrong. We began making plans. We started making phone calls, brainstorming and before long Cycalive, as it became known, was becoming a reality.
The concept was to invite year 11 black students from public schools and to do a joint 600km bike ride from Johannesburg to Durban and use the ride as an example of how people from different backgrounds can come together in the spirit of unity and friendship. We would also try and raise funds to assist underprivileged people in South Africa through this campaign. Amazingly, within a few weeks we had raised close to R50,000 (which was a huge sum of money back then. I personally managed to raise R5,000 from the famous clothing company Timberland. The managing director of Timberland South Africa at the time loved the concept and was thrilled to support our mission. Reebok South Africa also sponsored each of us with a pair of sneakers and t-shirt!
After a huge amount of effort we managed to pull of the impossible. We spent a week on the road, visiting many places on the route, pitching tents each night, and after the most magical week we ended the ride with Shabbat in Durban. The memories from that week will remain etched in my mind forever. One of the most powerful experiences was when we taught the other students the song “Havenu Shalom Aleichem” and they taught us an African song entitled “Modimo Reeboka Wena”. Tragically on the week of the ride a school bus had been involved in a serious accident in which many children were injured. We heard about this accident and the hospital, where many of the children were taken to, happened to be on our route. We stopped there to visit the injured children and together we all, in harmony, sang both songs to the children. I do not think there was a dry eye in the ward. I still get goosebumps when I think of it today.
I believe that Cycalive has entered into it’s 20th year this year. I could not believe that it had been continuing for so many years and to see pictures from the most recent ride was just heart-rending!
It has made me realize that when people set there minds to achieving great things, with no ulterior motives but simply with the desire to bring goodness into the world, then the sky is the limit.
But most importantly, it helped shaped my thinking to understand that we are all created in the image of G-d. We are all His children. The biases and stigma that we pick up along the way, that is not real. That is what is actually false. That is what needs to be discarded. It takes opening our minds and hearts. It takes educating ourselves and examining our own thoughts and prejudices. Now is the time to take stock. Now is the time to create your own Cycalive so too speak. Build and repairs any bridges that need building or fixing in your own life. Now is the time. Let us create a world of which G-d can be proud!