Eating Lunch with Strangers
Milwaukee works hard to showcase our forward thinking.
That’s what the Milwaukee Awards for Neighborhood Development Innovation (MANDI) are.
In Riverwest, our neighborhood development has been propelled by a 24-hour bike race each summer that tethers 1,000 riders to a 5-mile radius of community and asks them to engage, participate, enjoy and impact our neighborhood.
And, after the 10th year of the event, we’re being recognized for it.
Jurors for the awards are asked to visit the award finalists –the community centers, gardens and educational facilities that make an impact. In our case, we’re an event, formed only by the riders and volunteers who gather for 24 hours. We’re not a building, a garden, a permanent structure.
To engage jurors, Riverwest24 ride organizers manifested the “Shiverwest24” yesterday at the lunch hour. Volunteers threw snow pants over their riding gear and headed out to mock up a short ride route, a check point stop, a bonus stop and even lunch. We worked hard as a group to give the jurors just a slice of what we reap every July.
And it was that common eagerness to share our philosophy that brought together the volunteers that could duck out of work to recreate the experience.
I saw one half of a tandem bike team I talk casually to without ever knowing their names. I know we share this passion, though, and that’s enough to keep the conversation going.
I saw the rider who helped organize an eager crowd as the May Day lottery system opened and a line of mis-numbered hands tried to ensure their spot in the ride. He kept a disorganized group calm and when we finally made it to our turn to register, we made a point to tell organizers how great he’d been in the crowd and the work he did. They responded “yeah, we know.” It turns out every person in line ahead of us paid the same compliment. Every person in line ahead of us also thought it important to celebrate this rider, deliver VIP status for him, and share with the organizers that their vision for community and cooperation was manifest in this one person. Those are the strangers I hang out with in the summer.
I saw the rider I met two years ago while volunteering and heard her telling her story to the jurors.
Seemingly strangers – mostly because I don’t know all their names – we were friends, collaborators, teammates yesterday as we all worked hard to project not just the fun, not just the tactical elements but also the pure spirit of the summer RW24 ride.
It worked, too. I talked to amazing jurors. I watched them get drawn in, beg to punch rider manifests, eagerly take the temporary tattoo that summer riders make permanent. I saw one juror taking selfies of himself on his rented Bubblr bike, surely sharing with his world his brief moment as a RW24 rider.
I saw jurors eating the hot stew meal, chatting up all the riders, and spinning this way and that to figure out which part of the event to take in first.
I hope we win the award, of course. What I really hope is that each juror grinned as widely as I did yesterday heading back into work after their lunch with strangers.
maryt1 View All →
Feminist, activist, outdoor advocate, animal lover, chocolate shake lover, reader, watcher, talker, actor, speaker, worker, writer, urban adventurer, hustler, involved, passionate, excited, ready.
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