Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime?

[With a nod to Bing Crosby.]

Jeffrey here.  Joey yields for the annual summing up.

This ninth Ride for Human Rights was the most physically challenging yet.  More than New Mexico’s 7800’ Continental Divide and Arizona’s 35 mph sandstorms and 12-mile uphills.

Rain. Snow.  Gales.  Floods.  Landslides.  Long steep narrow winding graveled pavements.  Washed-out roads.  Enormous trucks.  Wet-to-the-bone cold.

These previously unpublished photos make my teeth chatter.

California downpour

California gale

California flood

Oregon whipping wind

Washington wet snow

Washington slush

Washington freezing mix

And every year, I’m a year older.

In 2014, to the Great Lakes, I pedaled Joey’s dead weight 1600 miles, 78 per day.

This year, I pedaled only 500 miles, 26 per day.

It was all I could do.

Or was it?

That’s always the question.  Moment to moment.  What’s possible?

The corollary: What’s right?

Life’s routines don’t confront us with these questions.  We go through the motions.  It’s the non-routine that makes us take stock.

Like when a beggar confronts you on the train.  Or a friend gets sick.  Or things at work take a turn.

The Rides never are routine.  Every moment presents new choices.

Day after day, we choose to engage with people.  They read our signs and look us up.  They flag us down to talk.  They pause to chat.

If we meet fifteen people per day, it’s about 300 per Ride.  Nine rides reached about 3000 people.  Many more see our signs.

I learn a lot.  About people.  About America.  And we open some eyes and some minds.

We remind our new friends that immigrants have lower crime and disease rates, higher labor force participation rates, than Americans.  Immigrants create jobs as workers and customers.  They pay more in taxes than they consume in services (although it may seem otherwise when taxes are paid nationally but services are consumed locally).  Our laws . . .

. . . and our Holy Books . . .

. . . give fearful people the right to ask for refuge and to get a fair chance to prove their cases.

Ethics and common sense require that they be helped, with lawyers and interpreters, to exercise that right.

Almost everyone we have encountered in 39 states agrees with these principles.

It’s reassuring.  Americans want to do right.  Loud people sometimes mislead them.  We try, with a still small voice, to guide them gently onto another path.

And we raise a little money so that people on the front lines can be our agents for good.

You can help.

Our friend Michelle spends a day each week in San Antonio, working with other volunteers and paying out of her own pocket to help destitute asylum seekers find safety in the USA.

Maybe, this week, since you can’t be in San Antonio with Michelle, you can further her work with one day’s pay.

If you can’t afford a day’s pay, how about a morning’s pay?  An hour’s?

Our friends at Human Rights First spend their days defending asylum seekers in court, working with Congress and federal agencies to increase refugee protections, blowing the whistle on torture and persecution here and abroad, leveraging their knowledge to recruit and train volunteer lawyers who give asylum applicants the chance to present their cases.

Maybe, this week, since you can’t be with them in New York, Washington, Houston, Los Angeles or overseas, you can help them with a day’s pay.

If you can’t afford that, how about a morning’s pay?  An hour’s?

Since 1983, I have done what I could do.  Winning asylum for hundreds.  Teaching asylum law to thousands—law students and lawyers.  With my family’s support, taking in as our guests homeless refugees from Asia, Africa, and Europe, many of them upon their release from immigration jail.

This has been my calling.

You are called to something else.  Your work is important.  More significant than mine.

But someone can afford to pay for your creativity and help.  Refugees can’t afford to pay for what they need.

Can you spare a little on their behalf?  Volunteer for a day by sharing a day’s income.  For an hour, with an hour’s income.

If you can’t do that, please use kind words and your friendly indoor voice to open the hearts of people who don’t know the truth about immigrants, refugees, asylum applicants, and the cruelties our government inflicts on them with our money and in our names.

*                *                *

The Rides take a village.

Julie and Nattie kept my bike and equipment for a year until I could return after 2018’s pneumonia-induced flameout.  They took me in when I arrived in San Jose.  They and Jennifer drove hundreds of miles to get me to the starting line in Valley Ford. There are no better friends in the world.

Brother David and his spouse Andrea housed, fed, and chaperoned me in Seattle.  They were a happy shelter from the storm.

From Valley Ford to Seattle, people called out encouragement, asked me questions, offered food and drink and shelter, warmth and friendship.  Some talked policy and politics.  Some talked, well, craziness.  Some discussed my soul.  Everyone meant well.  That’s my America.

Everyone who donated to the IWC or to Human Rights First, who commented through the blog or Facebook, who texted or emailed, warmed me up and kept me going.  I didn’t comment or respond—I don’t want to seem to favor some over others—but I saw, read, and appreciated every gesture.

Brittney and Emily, my ground control at Human Rights First, ever were there with a cheerful word.

My children and their significant others, all busy professionals, sent their love and unflagging support.

First and foremost is my Nancy.

Nancy is more delightful than $2 chocolate soft-serve ice cream (North Country “custard”).

Ever since I deserted corporate law and went to work for refugees, Nancy has supported me despite her doubts. My poor clients paid little or nothing. I brought people home from jail to stay for days or weeks with us and our children. I bike thousands of miles, exposed to the elements, among inattentive drivers, people with firearms, wild beasts, slavering dogs. Nancy masters her fears, does without my cooking, indulges my ideosyncrasies.

When I returned to NYC, our apartment was sad and dark. Nancy, my love, was away on family business. Two days later she returned, and the apartment was flooded with joy and light.

Wherever Nancy is, is my home. I cannot long stand to be anywhere else.