There’s No Helicopter Coming

Guest Post by Stephen Mullaney, a recent Wave Tribe customer that will be pulling a Global Boardbag up the East Coast (by bike).

It’s a great day, just got in a bike ride, getting ready for a long trip and the weather outside is “delicious”!

Durham NC, where I currently live, is part of an area known as the Triangle. The Triangle consists of Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh, three cities with similarities and polar opposites.

Contained within each of these towns are a wide range of people, incomes, languages, views, beliefs and opinions. I just rode from downtown Durham to South Durham, a short distance by bike mileage, a long way in many other aspects…

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I have made this trip for a few reasons, my touring bike needed to go out for a run, it hasn’t had a “day out” in a while. I just wanted to ride, and I needed a few items for an upcoming camping trip.

During the duration of my ride I passed all walks, pedals and glides of life. White, black, latino, asian, skinny, overweight and just right people, racers, slackers, hipsters, Huffy’s to titanium, old and young. We were all out there, and I was happy to be a part of the action.

When I arrived, at the national retail outdoor store I was going to, I locked my bike to a trash can (the bike rack had a motorcycle locked to it) and headed on in. Inside were people buying everything in sight, was this the last shopping day of the year? I dug into my pocket and found my shopping list, stay focused on the task at hand.

My wife does not like to go food shopping with me, I have a tendency to sight see, meander, roam, get lost and then shop in an erratic and forgetful manner. I enjoy the idea of an adventure, survival off of free cheese and other goodies. Just me and the consumer wilderness, who will survive? Sometimes it’s so bad you might witness my behavior and think I have never been shopping before. But I always manage to complete the job.

Now I set out again, with my shopping list on hand I know I have three items to get, a sleeping pad, an inner tube and a new water filter. I am focused and ready to conquer the task and the crowds..

I have completed another shopping trek, out into the sunlit streets again. I unlock my bike and out I meet Randy. Randy looks like a “through hiker” of the A.T or the PCT, neither of which are close to where I am now. Randy is lean, muscular, bright eyed and equipped with hiking poles, a backpack and water bottles. He sits in tranquility on a bench.

“Headed out on a trip?” I ask.

“Been on one for the last few years.” is his reply. “Lost my job my house and my family”

“Sorry man, want an orange?”

“No, ever watch any outdoor shows?”

I answer honestly, “can’t say that I have, don’t have a t.v”

Randy perks up a bit, “I used to watch them all the time, people out in the middle of nowhere, getting into all kinds of stuff, surviving, making mistakes, overcoming problems and then at the end of the show, a helicopter picks them up and they go on to next episode”

I laugh, Randy looks at me and then down at his belongings…….”there’s no helicopter coming for me.”

I ask again, “want my orange?” he takes it, “hopefully you find small helicopters everywhere.”

On my ride back to town I can’t help thinking about all the “Randies” in the world, in my town, my neighborhood and in my life.

At some level we are all Randy, even if for an hour, a day, a week or maybe longer. Who are the people that try to reach out, who are our helicopters.

When we are you we have our parents, teachers, siblings and maybe some friends that know how to think straight and help when the going gets rough. I know I needed to be “air lifted” out of many situations, many times while growing up.

As we grow up the number of people that can lift us out of situations or moods starts to decline. Now we have bosses, doctors, mechanics, spouses and still some friends. But really who is there on a daily basis, face to face the living and breathing people right in front of us who can physically reach out a hand.

As I see the skyline of downtown Durham peek over the trees and bridges I know that being on my bike has allowed me to be people’s helicopter. Whether through direct contact, just a wave, a smile,a laugh given to my wife and daughter riding on their tandem, I have lifted someone up. Walking, biking, living the “slow life” allows me to meet talk to and be influenced by people like Randy.

Stop and talk, influence and impression work both ways.

  • Make a list of people that are your “Helicopters”.
  • Who have you been a “Helicopter” to recently.

Be a “Helicopter” to your community.

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Stephen Mullaney, public school teacher in traditional settings for about 15 years. He realized that his students weren’t getting what they really needed. He won teacher of the year several times other teachers and students really loved his classes….but the system was making radical changes in what “school” should look like. Less hands on, less flexibility, less compassion for the students right in front of you. He decided he needed to go, keep teaching but in a way that he was proud of and that he knew would impact the students in the most powerful way. So, he left behind a consistent paycheck, tenure, health insurance and security. Everyone told him not to do it…except his wife and daughter. It’s been five years since that day. He has now worked with prisoners, ex cons, students, homeless families, etc , etc. His work has been in the wilderness, in the ocean, on rivers and in classrooms. No, it has not been easy, but the reward has been beyond what gets counted by the bank tellers and bill collectors.

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