As I woke this morning from woefully too little sleep, I thought about driving a SAG wagon to give my body a break. But I remembered the route. Today we were going through Priddy. Perhaps that doesn’t sound very interesting to you. But it is the single best event I’ve been part of while riding a bike.
Priddy is a small town of around 250 people set in the plateau hills of the northern edge of central Texas. A town most Texans and fewer non-Texans have ever heard of and would probably misspell.
Our final stretch point of today was at the Priddy School, K-12, where there is an amazing superintendent, principal, teaching staff and student body. As we riders pulled into the parking lot, all 107 students in the school system jumped and cheered our arrival with clapping, yelling and waving hand-made signs. The signs, some of them made by an individual student and some were family projects, had drawings of bikes, cows, horses, train tracks and their families. One thing each sign did was thank us for riding to end hunger and each one thanked us in a different and personal way. Some read “Thank you,” to ” Good Job” to “You are awesome” to “You are fun to watch” to “You Rock” – which is my personal favorite.
As the K – 3rd graders began to warm up to our presence, they all wanted to pick up the bikes, stand on the pedals, know how far we’ve ridden, if we use sunscreen and if our legs hurt. As the older students embraced the spirit of the event, they too entered conversations about their sports (they have a phenomenal cross country team) and their lives. One student in particular, a junior, had attended Super Summer. We stayed at this stretch point about an hour. A typical stretch point is under 10 minutes.
After about 15 minutes of asking questions and comparing bikes, one second grade student began walking around with her sign and a crayon. She was asking us to sign the poster she made for us. That started a trend. Pretty soon, there were groups of children around each rider who was holding a crayon and signing his or her name to the posters. Other elementary kids gave their sign to a rider, Don Vanderslice, to keep him encouraged.
Many of these signs were created by children who are far too familiar with hunger. Of the 107 students in Priddy ISD, 62 are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. That’s 60%. Unknown to these children, they were thanking us for raising awareness and money for feeding them.
62, not the miles ridden, the miles per hour or feet of climbing, but the number of food-insecure children who greeted us, thanked us and blessed us today, is the only number that matters to me. It is not only pretty, but beautiful.