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Okay, okay, he didn’t didn’t cycle all that way just for me. He rode over 3,500 miles to raise funds and awareness for all the lives touched by multiple sclerosis. He raised a million dollars! And that, people, is what I call being a person of action, a real change-maker for Good in this world.

Phil’s ride was made into a documentary entitled, quite fittingly, The Ride. It comes around on Showtime now and again, and can be purchased or rented from Amazon or Netflix, and is available on iTunes. I downloaded the film to my laptop and re-watch it when I’m feeling a bit down with pain or the fatigue of MS. I think I’ve seen the movie about a dozen times so far, and each time I watch it I get an infusion of gratitude and hope, which gives me newfound energy. Storytelling, regardless of the medium, is at its best when it wakes us up, allows us the gifts of self-reflection, connection, inspiration, and, if we’re really lucky, the kind of healing that’s transformational. Which is to say, healing that begins within and works its way outward, manifesting in the irrisistible urge to take action to change something in our own lives or the lives of others.

Good storytelling carries within the narrative the means by which to experience something anew, something – or someone – different, even if what’s offered is a way of looking at myself and my own experiences in a way I’ve not considered before. Stories told well offer opportunities. Phil Keoghan’s motto is No Opportunity Wasted. He’s a guy who knows what storytelling at its best is all about. I don’t have to know him personally to know that about him, the evidence is in the book he wrote, in The Ride, in his Life List, and even in the questions he poses to contestants on The Amazing Race. Listen to the way he expertly quides them along the pathways of narrative. Pay attention to his responses, to how his comments further the stories, create curiosity, ensure diving below the surface. He opens up opportunities for connections with viewers, as well as a new way of looking at or reinforcing the bond between two racers partnered in a team. It’s not an accident that The Amazing Race has won 9 out of 10 nominations for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program. The show’s strength is its storytelling. The show’s host, narrator and plot-advancer – the central character with which all other characters interact, circle back to, bounce off of, engage meaningfully – is Phil Keoghan. You know, that guy who just happens to live his own life by the guiding principle of not wasting opportunities. Which is to say, the guy who knows the value of keeping the story interesting, keeping it moving – in a curiosity-infused, meaningful, suspense-riddled, energy-&-passion-filled, amazing way.

I wish I’d known about Phil’s ride across America while it was happening back in 2009; he invited folks to meet him at towns along the route to ride with him for awhile. I would’ve loved that opportunity to huge, Texas-size proportions. But maybe there’s a reason I didn’t discover Phil’s involvement with the National MS Society, Together In MS and the NOW women’s pro cycling team until recently. I could certainly argue that finding out about Phil’s advocacy for MS happened at exactly the time I was in desperate need of some inspiration, some No Opportunity Wasted kind of reminders about the goals and dreams I have for my life. As it happens, Phil will be riding in the Bike MS Coastal Challenge with some of the NOW team this weekend. I’m hoping – with that little kid kind of Oh, please, OH Please, OH PLEASE! – that my path will cross with his somewhere along the 150+ miles of the ride. My fear is that he’s going to be cycling out in front and way too zippy-Amazing, change-maker-fast for me to see him or ever catch up to him. But I’m fixing in my mind and heart the vision of riding next to Phil Keoghan for a stretch of Southern California road, because pedaling alongside the person who inspired me to make my dream happen NOW would make the manifesting of that dream sweeter by a factor of about, oh, a gagillion.

I also want to thank Phil Keoghan, up close, in person, for all that he’s done and continues to do for those of us who live with MS. Being able to look someone in the eyes when you express gratitude is one of the most joyous experiences I know. That moment, however brief, is a profound connection. A connection forged with a brand of grace that doesn’t come around very often in life. You have to seek opportunities for those connections, take action to make them happen, and live – really live in the now – during each and every nano-second of those experiences, those connections. Maybe that eye-to-eye kind of exchange is so grace-filled because its essentially about acknowledging an invaluable gift. The kind of gift you can’t repay, that you can only honor by saying a heartfelt Thank You and sharing the story of the gift – what you did with the gift, why you consider it so worthy, so precious.

Maybe, if the timing is right, someone else will catch a spark of inspiration from the story and carry the flame forward, lighting new story-fires that carry the power to ignite on and on. New stories, new chapters, more opportunities for action and change ~ powered by the heat of inspiration and gratitude and a desire to make a difference in our lives and the lives of others. If that’s not a gift, if that’s not grace, I don’t know what is.

By the way, if you happen to harbor the desire to ride with Phil too, you should check out TOGETHERinMS because Phil and the NOW Novartis women’s cycling team do BikeMS events all across the country, and you might be able to make your wish come true! Check out the headings Interested In Joining Our Team? & Rallies for more information. And Good Luck!

*But you do know what’s better than luck, right? Write your goal/dream/wish on your own LIFE LIST and then take action to Make It Happen. I don’t say that lightly; trust me, I know that dreaming big and taking even the smallest steps of forward-motion-action can be challenging. Take a look here, where I discuss breaking big goals into smaller pieces. Strive for amazing things, and then come back here, please, and tell me all about your adventures. I do love a good story.

If you’re going to be at the Bike MS Coastal Challenge in Ventura, CA this weekend, keep an eye out for me and please say Howdy! I look like this:

Okay, not really – well, not usually. I look more like this on a given day in real life:

Except for when I’m riding, and then I look like this:

You’re going to have to watch for me because I’m going to be focusing all of my energy on pedaling. And trying to spot Phil, of course 🙂

If you want to help our Bike MS stories chug along to greater heights, you can donate to Phil & the NOW team’s ride here and you can donate to mine here. Color me uber-grateful for any and all support!!! I promise to shout the names of all donors as I pedal my three wheels across the Finish Line on Sunday.

*** POSTSCRIPT ***

It’s only now, 10 days later, that I realize I hadn’t even known about recumbent trikes in 2009 when Phil Keoghan did his cross-country ride. Which means that I couldn’t have ridden along with him even if I had known about his ride and the invitation to meet up with him along the route somewhere.

I guess things really do happen when and how they’re supposed to ~

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