Wednesday, August 24, 2005

8/24/05 It's Not About a Bike Ride

This past May, I was invited to participate in the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's 10th annual Ride for Missing Children. I was so moved by this event, that upon my return home, I spent several days writing this story.

I'm going to publish part one here, and then provide you the link to read the rest of the story. It is long, and for those interested, it may take you several sittings to read it all.

I have been told by men and women alike that it is a "Kleenex" story. Hopefully, it will aid in your understanding of what we live through and why your support means so much to all of us.

When you follow the link to the story, at the bottom of each page, you will see a "next page" link. You may have to scroll down to find it. I don't do windows and I don't do websites, although I have been known to take a crack at the latter.

Here is part one:

My Ride for Missing Children 2005

In Words and Photos
By Kelly Jolkowski

Dedicated to my missing son Jason

Wherever you are, my love goes with you…………..

Part I

My story began long before my airplane touched down in Syracuse, NY. It began on a warm summer day in June of 2001. That is the when I last saw my missing son, Jason. So many events have transpired since then. So many changes, so many heartaches, but yet so many joys and experienced blessings.

I first met Frank Williams, chairman of The Ride for Missing Children, at the 2004 New York State Missing Person's Day in Albany, NY. NYS Missing Person's Day is an annual event sponsored by Doug and Mary Lyall's organization, The Center for Hope. Frank was the Keynote Speaker that year, and he mentioned that he did the Ride for Missing Children, which "raises posters", as he put it, for the Mohawk Valley National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) branch office.

This branch office's primary function is the production and dissemination of posters for missing children. The fundraiser ride is the annual effort to continue their great success in the location of children through these posters. Cyclists raise money to go on the 100 mile ride through this beautiful central New York country. The NCMEC mission is: To make our children safer---one child at a time. Those words were on the back of our jerseys and repeated throughout the day.

After Frank spoke at the 2004 Missing Person's Day, I chatted with him and told him that I also biked. He invited me to come to the 2004 ride, but it was short notice for me, so I declined. He then asked me to come in May 2005 as an honorary rider, and I gladly accepted. In 2004, Kate Alcott rode in honor of Jason, as I could not attend. I would end up meeting Kate in 2005, and she was partnered with me as she is an experienced rider. Kate also arranged to get me a suitable loaner bike similar to mine at home. I looked forward to finally meeting her.

The day before the ride, I boarded my flight on the way to Syracuse. It was a smaller airplane, so there was only one flight attendant. I noticed her right away because she was beaming, and there seemed to be no particular reason. I sensed she was a person who found joy in her work, her life, and in people and that it was truly genuine. I observed her assisting the passengers and going well above and beyond the call of duty. I had never seen a flight attendant like her. She gave advice to a couple traveling with a young child, and she seemed to have a sixth sense for who might want a pillow or a blanket. She took special care of the older passengers, but yet did not neglect any of the rest of us.

At some point during the flight, a thought popped into my head that I could not get rid of no matter how hard I tried to dismiss it. I felt compelled to get all of the passengers involved in a tribute to the flight attendant. I found myself taking out a piece of paper and penning this note: "This flight attendant does such a wonderful job. Wouldn't it be neat to recognize her in an unusual way? Just think of how it would make her feel. Even if you are not a fun-loving person, try to think of it as an experiment in human behavior. Please pass this note along quickly"

I went on to explain: "When the plane comes to a stop and she stands up, start clapping. Point at her and smile so that she knows we are clapping for her. Don't miss this opportunity to do this for someone else. Why not? Just do it!!"

I folded up the piece of paper and gave it to the flight attendant and asked her to give it to the woman in row one. I knew she would not look at it and would give it to the woman, thinking that I knew her. She did, and I watched to see what would happen. I waited and waited and did not see the note coming my way. I thought it awful that this attempt failed at the very first person!

I was about to give up when I saw the note moving back and forth coming down the aisle. When it came to me, I read it as if I did not know what was on it. I showed it to my seatmate. He smiled and started talking to me. He had not uttered one word before that point. I wondered if he saw me writing it, or if something else sparked a desire to talk. I saw one man shake his head about the note as it went by, but I saw more people smiling, and those smiles grew broader as we came closer to landing. There seemed to be an air of anticipation on the plane. I could hear the young girls behind me asking each other if it was going to happen.

The plane touched down and taxied to the gate. The flight attendant stood up, and it seemed as if time stood still. I was determined that I was not going to start the clapping. I waited and did not hear anything other than the drone of the engines. I groaned inwardly. Suddenly, a chorus of clapping started somewhere in the back and moved forward like a wave. The flight attendant appeared rather surprised, and smiled that bright smile of hers. She then went right back to work. As the passengers disembarked, there was a light feeling in the air. I grinned as I went by her and then walked off into the terminal.

You might wonder what this has to do with the story, just as I wondered what possessed me to do something like that. I discovered the meaning of it all during the next 24 hours.

The complete story can be found here:


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