I remember how quickly I uttered the words "sure, I’ll sign up" when my friend Chance told me about the Lone Star Ride.
I was excited to be faced with a new challenge, ready to take on the next adventure and, naturally, I made it all about me.
I focused on how I was going to get in shape for the ride, how I was going to obtain the proper equipment and how I was going find the time to train.
And then there was this idea about raising money … how was I going to do that?
On several occasions I considered dropping out. I wasn’t going to bail on the event, it’s not like I was quitting… just holding out till next year.
My schedule was full and the few trips I took around White Rock were killing me.
"I’m sure I’ll be in better shape to do this next year," I thought, as I was certain I had taken on too much. I kept telling myself that if I could get through it I would be a frickin superhero.
Then it all changed.
I was on mile number I don’t know what and I was thinking about the donations I needed to get in order to hit my fundraising goal. I stopped thinking about the how and I started thinking about the why.
There I was, Mr. Superhero, circling around the lake on my bicycle when there were so many others out there that could barely get out of bed. Even worse, there were people that were sicker than they should be because they couldn’t afford the medicine they needed.
Still others were alone in the world and couldn’t afford the care that was required just to get them through the day.
I thought of my friends that shell out thousands of dollars a year on medication and it sickened me to realize that AIDS was just as much an industry as it was an epidemic.
I thought of Tom, Coe, Blair and all my other friends that I had made while cocktailing on the Castro my years in SF.
They averaged about 20-25 years older than me and would sit for hours and reminisce about their years being out in the ’70s and ’80s. As locals, we got to know each other very well, and one day I realized that there was a broad gap between my generation and theirs.
Through their stories, it was obvious that many of the generation between us had been lost.
For them, HIV was a death sentence, but through science and years of research, my generation had learned to survive.
We were no longer a generation dying from it; we were a generation living with it. Thanks to the treatments available today, people are able to live healthy, positive lives.
But it’s damned expensive.
I remembered so many times in my past when I didn’t know where I was going to get the money to pay for what I needed. Many times I found myself in situations where I couldn’t have made it without the help I got.
And there it was — the magical word, "help."
I was helping. I was becoming part of something bigger than myself, something with a purpose, an organization that had one main goal: to give.
It felt right. It made sense.
And I rode harder that day than I had ever gone before.
It all got easier from there. I found the time, I found money, I found the will.
In this economy, asking for donations is a very difficult thing to do, but every dollar I get makes me want to ride stronger and longer.
I will never know the people that I’m helping, but I know I’m making a difference in someone’s life.
It wasn’t about me at all. It was about them, and I was going to do everything I could to keep it that way.
You learn a lot about life when you stop thinking about yourself for a moment.
It’s not the me, it’s the we. It’s about the now. It’s about paying it forward with no expectations. It’s about giving of yourself and adding to the world around you.
It’s about that time that I learned what being a superhero was all about. It’s about not being one at all.
See you at the finish line.
The Lone Star Ride Journal will appear weekly in Dallas Voice through Sept. 25, the Friday preceding the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS on Sept. 26-27.
For more information on Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS, or to donate to Team Dallas Voice, a Team Dallas Voice member or any other rider or team, go online to LoneStarRide.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 21, 2009.