By Ed Chasteen
Worry does not come naturally to me. I expect rainbows and silver linings. It is not my world that makes headlines on the nightly news and morning papers. I tell myself that these behaviors draw attention because few people do them. If they were normal, they would not be newsworthy.
My world is the normal one where people care about one another and look after each other. I expected to find this world that summer I got on my bicycle at Disney World.
My doctor had told me I have MS. “You can’t be active.” He said. “Rest and don’t get hot.” He said. Living that way was killing me. So I got on a bicycle to find out if my doctor knew what he was talking about. Ride from Orlando to Seattle to Anaheim—Disney World to Disneyland—that was my plan. If I made it, MS would live with me on my terms. Somehow I knew that.
My church had taught me that we are created in God’s image. I figured that must mean that every person on the planet has at least a spark of goodness in them. I wanted to find that spark. So I planned to ride all by myself. With no money. I would ask people I met for a sandwich, a drink of water, a bed for the night. If I found their spark of goodness, they would help me. And I would tell them stories.
I found that spark in more than 500 people. No one said no to me. For 105 days I rode. I discovered that summer that my doctor was wrong. My MS doesn’t mean I can’t be active; it means I must.
A quarter century has passed since Mickey Mouse gave me that trophy, Disneyland held that parade just for me, and Disney dubbed me The Pedalin’ Prof from William Jewell College. And I’m still riding. Still looking for goodness.
My doctor thought he was announcing my doom when he said I have MS. He was, in fact, granting me greater liberty. So I drew a circle around my hometown. On my ride from Orlando to Seattle to Anaheim, my longest days had been 125 miles. So my circle went 125 miles out in all directions from my town. My town called Liberty. Greater Liberty: That’s what I call every place in this circle.
I wrote a book, How To Like People Who Are Not Like You. I started a 501 C-3 non-profit called HateBusters. My MS taught me that I am my own doctor, my own minister, my own person. Thanks to my MS I now have greater liberty to live above and beyond the limitations that other people expect of me, limitations of race, religion, politics, age, gender, class, culture, physical condition.
As The Pedalin’ Prof I ride to places in Greater Liberty. I teach people how to like people. I help people who have been hurt by someone who hates them.
Invite me and I will come
(free of charge)
Join me and we will win