During my decade long career in the motorcycle industry, some of my colleagues referred to me as “Great Day”. It was a playful nickname they bestowed upon me after hearing me answer the phone; “It’s a great day at North Hollywood Honda, this is Josh”. I answered the telephone that way for years, wherever I worked. I think people on the other end loved hearing my greeting, and I loved speaking the words.
Yesterday when I rolled out of bed, I was still tired, lacking the sleep I needed to recover from an eighty mile bike ride the day prior, and I noticed after placing my feet on the floor, then standing, just how sore and mangled my body felt from the bicycle crash I had.
Looking out my window, I was at first set in a mood as drab as the drizzling skies. As I pedaled into the city I began giving thanks for everything I could randomly think of, including the coolness of the day… and the rain. Not long after that, the sun came peeking out, drying me off and warming my spirit.
I stumbled onto the front patio of a cafe, striking up a conversation with a couple who sat enjoying their french toast and coffee. Soon I was in their seat doing exactly the same. And that’s when I met Amy and her friend, Amy.
We talked for an hour about everything good in the world. They listened, allowing me to share with them about the mission I’m on, this long bike ride and my passion for creating a brighter Christmas for children via Operation Elf Box. Before saying our goodbyes and embracing each other with a ‘group hug’ they reached into their wallets, handing me seventy dollars and offered me well wishes and the hope that Jo and I would continue to be safe and have fun.
As the two lady angels disappeared around the corner I was approached a second later by a young man who asked me for money. I invited him to sit with me and talk. Our conversation quickly led to his drug addiction. I had declined giving him cash, which then he told me that if I had, he would have spent it on getting his fix. What he said next I strongly disagreed with. Looking at me, he spoke these words about himself, “I’m just a piece of shit”.
This label he placed upon himself I persuaded him to remove, asking him to do himself and me a favor and never say it again. I encouraged him to consider saying, “I’m a human. I am love. I am capable of loving and people love me”.
Fifteen minutes passed as we sat there opening up to each other. I spoke with rigorous honesty, telling him of a time in my life when I was filled with disparity and hopelessness, having been in a similar situation as he is now. I told him that today, I’m a man that knows the difference between what hurts and what doesn’t.
I asked him to consider praying throughout the day, asking his Creator to give him strength and I reminded him that he is powerful, capable, loved, and never alone. I pointed my new friend toward a meeting place nearby where he could connect with others who were finding strength and hope together by sharing their common problem. Then I hugged him three times before he left me with his best smile.
I had no idea where I was going to sleep last night, and began devising a plan, researching Couch Surfer and Warm Showers for a potential host. That’s when I was notified by Facebook that a good friend from Bend Oregon was nearby. I phoned Ron Carter and indeed he was. Ron was in town to attend the World Moto GP races and was staying just a few blocks away. We met for a coffee in the lobby of his hotel and immediately he insisted that Shoeless Jo and I stay with him at the luxurious Marriott.
We strolled down 6th Street together, walking into the Dizzy Rooster where two country music singers were belting tunes out onto the main strip. Jason and his gal were seated beside us. They took notice of Jo who was laying beneath my barstool and we struck up a conversation.
Jason is passionate about making a positive difference in the world, sharing with me how he is active in making children’s wishes come true by partnering with Make-A-Wish, aiding their efforts through a golf tournament he spearheads, the Hacker Classic Golf Outing.
Before saying our goodbyes, Jason hands me a crisp twenty, providing for Jo and I, encouraging me to keep loving people.
Ron split to go have dinner with some of the power-sport industry folks he knows and works with. Jo and I took to the streets, making friends as we walked together through the city, people watching and listening to some great country music that came bellowing out of every roudy bar in downtown.
Antonio was buddied up with a friend, having a great day, enjoying the cities night life. He stopped to pet Jo, asking what we were up to. I mentioned that we were riding a bicycle from coast-to-coast and we’re going to be here in Austin for a few nights. I didn’t have the opportunity to share Operation Elf Box with him until after he whipped forty dollars out of his pocket and put it in my hand.
The night was coming to an end as I struck up a conversation with Pranav. We were standing there on the sidewalk among the thousands of party goers on a busy downtown Austin evening. I learned that he owns Bombay Motorsports in Reseda, California. Pranav offered to buy me dinner. Chatting over our loaded street vendor bratwurst, he mentioned that he would be interested in helping me open more ‘free toy stores’.
He also told me that his dealership is not far from where I once worked, that he knows the crew from North Hollywood Honda, Dave, Hugo, Jason and a few of the others, the same guys that once referred to me as “Great Day”.