Aboard the Lake Shore Limited

Jeffrey here. Last night we left Chicago by rail, with boxed trike and bagged Joey in cargo, the rest of our gear on the train’s overhead rack, and me bouncing along in a coach seat.

The train trip to New York City is scheduled to take 20 hours. That’s an hour for each day we spent pedaling from the sea.

The train route is hundreds of miles shorter than our bike route. The first part of our return trip closely tracks the Cleveland to Chicago section of our 2011 Ride to Iowa; the second part closely tracks the first week of this year’s Ride, from New York City to Buffalo. In reverse, of course.

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Here are some views from our 5-day stay in Chicago:  Lake Michigan from the Hilton Hotel. Fireworks in the museum area. A Japanese-style garden. Part of The University of Chicago campus seen across the Midway Plaisance (site of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition).  Part of the skyline as we were driven to the train station.  Me with the boxed trike.

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Some scenes from this morning:  Sunrise over Sandusky Bay, Ohio, on Lake Erie.  New York vineyards along Lake Erie.

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Here is Nancy, wearing the seahorse pendant I gave her on the occasion of the launch into adulthood of the last of our children. The seahorse mother is most important to her fry, but the father physically carries the offspring. This is symbolic of Nancy’s and my relationship, as is the fact that seahorses pair for life.

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And here we are with the offspring: Deena (A.B., M.A.T., UChicago), Nancy (A.B. Duke, M.S. Maryland, M.B.A. NYU), Benjamin (A.B. UChicago), me, and Rebecca (A.B. Grinnell, M.S.W. Columbia). I am surrounded by cultured, hypereducated people.

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Each of them quietly works to repair the world. Deena and Rebecca, as third grade teacher and social worker, do it formally and professionally. Nancy and Benjamin do it on their own time. All four’s accomplishments dwarf my own small works.

Education gave them tools to repair the world. It has helped them see and understand, which can strengthen empathy.

But education does not guarantee a kind heart. Plenty of evil is done by educated people. I don’t need to give examples; you know it is so.

I have biked over 5,200 miles for Human Rights First, through 18 states and a Canadian province. I have spoken with many more than a dozen people each day on each Ride, but even twelve daily encounters means over a thousand conversations with people of every level of intellect and education, from all over the USA and all over the world. Every one of these face-to-face encounters has been at least polite. Nearly all were friendly and warm.

I am sure that some of the people I meet vote for legislators who favor cruel immigration policies. Some may favor such policies themselves. But talk gently and ask about specific situations, move the conversation from “the Immigrant” to “the individual” and you see kind common sense in my unscientific sample. People from all walks of life, in cities, towns and countryside, agree that everyone has to make a living. They agree that America should offer refuge to people with a well-founded fear of persecution and that it is wrong to expect asylum applicants to navigate our legal system without a lawyer.

These people show that they have kind hearts.  And they show that empathy doesn’t require sophistication.  People on every Ride have handed me cash for Human Rights First, saying that if the cause is important enough to move me to ride hundreds of miles from home, it is worth supporting.  So you see why I say I make new friends every day, for your friend is one who supports you and what is important to you.

A reader recently posted a comment on this blog, saying the reader doesn’t know what to say, or to do, about immigration injustice.

Here are a few ideas.

Let’s speak up to friends and relations about our moral duty to protect strangers. Let’s express support of immigration laws that focus more on the intent of persons wishing to immigrate, and less on whether a person fits into artificial categories created by a Congress ignorant of real-world needs of their fellow Americans and of our foreign sisters and brothers. Let’s insist that the people who operate our country’s immigration machinery do so humanely, exercising every lawful opportunity to, as Abraham Lincoln said to a gathering of Germans at Cincinnati in 1861, “do all in [their] power to raise the yoke [on immigrants rather] than do anything that would tend to crush them,” and that those who break up families and expel good people when the law does not absolutely require it must lose their sinecures as unfit for their positions of public trust.

And even as we – all of us – continue to fall short, let’s try to observe some version of the Golden Rule in our own relations with others. If enough of us do that, Joey and I can stop our frantic no-days-off 80-mile-per-day Riding for Human Rights and take dear Nancy on a nice leisurely bike tour someday.

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Come back soon.  We’ll wrap up this year’s travelogue in a couple of days, from New York City.

3 thoughts on “Aboard the Lake Shore Limited

  1. I am glad you finished this journey safely. I know there will be more in the future, and I wish you the very best on those as well.

    Perhaps some day we will have all of ghe answers. Untill then keep at it. I hope to cross paths agian in the future.

  2. A wonderful endeavor that truly helps broadcast the message. Would you think a poster would help spread the word and provide an additional source of donations. The poster should be attractive and hopefully a commercial artist could devote time to create it. An annual additional would also keep people interested..Just a suggestion if the idea sounds reasonable to you. Best regards to you and the family. Michael Strauss

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