Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Rides of Hope: How one man is using mountain biking in the wilds of Israel to connect with young inmates

This story was both inspiring and heart-breaking — I got choked up within the first four minutes. I am so glad I stumbled upon it, though it's been out there in the world waiting for me since April 2010. It's a story about a man in Israel, who is a computer programmer by way of profession, but who also happens to enjoy mountain biking, and how he is making a difference, one Tuesday afternoon at a time.

He walks by the state prison one day, and thinks there must be something he can do to help the kids there who have lost their way. So with the help of a warden he organizes mountain bike rides for ten of the young inmates at a time. It didn't start off so well — he admits, "I’m used to algorithms and data structures and super motivated students, and nothing in my background prepared me to deal with a raging, violent adolescent in the middle of nowhere.”

But together, they learned their way around each other. "When a kid like this gets into a fit, the best thing you can possibly do is stay as close as possible. It's difficult, because what you really want to do is go away — but that's what he's had all his life; people walking away from him."

He links the act of mountain biking to the act of falling in love with ourselves, leadership, and empathy. His name is Shimon Schocken, and these are his Rides of Hope.

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