Finding joy can be a challenge for some of us but after years of wandering the spiritual wasteland that seems to be the foundation of our so-called modern society, I am settling into a Sunday routine that provides fellowship with like-minded people and a sense of community that’s been absent from my life for some time. What, you may ask, is this new religion? It isn’t a religion in the traditional sense but rather a gathering place that caters to people like me – motorcycle riders, nerds, coffee drinkers, and the socially awkward. All us us and more are welcome at a local coffee shop that makes people feel at home. We ride our motorcycles, drink coffee, talk about our motorcycles, and tell our stories.
This isn’t a commercial for that coffee shop but rather a recognition that fellowship, community, and support is out there for all of us but we have to be willing to do some work to find it. Sometimes the opportunity is in our back yard (like this has been for me for quite some time) and other times the opportunity takes more work to discover. At other times you may have to build the community you’re seeking. But in this case, the first step for me was to put down my tools, get on my motorcycle, and ride somewhere. That’s what I’ve done and every Sunday when I attend this particular gathering, I get more comfortable and, in turn, find more joy.
My new community fits me, and I fit it, for several reasons:
- All Judgement Is Positive: When anyone rolls up on their bike the public judgement is positive. That’s because everyone in this community is personally invested in their motorcycle. A criticism of the motorcycle is a criticism of the owner, and that isn’t welcome. Now, not every bike appeals to everyone. Some bikes sport colors I would never choose, some bikes feature modifications I would never install, and some bikes sport farkles that don’t work for me. With all this in mind, and with this in mind for other riders as well, no one openly criticizes anyone else’s motorcycle. There may be off-hand comments about loud pipes, garish colors, or about the guy that always push-starts his bike, but those are expressions of personal taste among a community of motorcycle riders. People either don’t get bent out of shape or if they do, they don’t show up again.
- The Community Is Self-Governing: No one is in charge of this community. The coffee shop owner is a motorcycle person and his passion is responsible for the Sunday morning event but beyond that, the community is all about itself. People show up, drink coffee (or not), make friends (or not), speak to each other (or not), and look at all the motorcycles. Some parents bring their children, some people bring their dogs, the coffee shop owner’s dog “patrols” the area, and everyone watches out for all these extra attendees. I’ve never seen anyone misbehave but I’m sure if they do the community will correct the behavior. And there’s no one attempting to be the authority figure, there’s no one giving lectures, and there’s no one holding court. Everyone’s there of their own accord.
- The Community Favors Listeners: The trick is being confident enough, and patient enough, to listen to someone else’s story. If you let people tell their story, they might ask you about your story. Or they might not – sometimes its hard to tell – but regardless, if you listen that means someone had a chance to be heard, and people love to be heard. Listening to the stories is the best part of the morning. Today I met a couple who ride Triumph motorcycles. He was so proud of his 2007 Triumph America! He beamed when he talked about it – that motorcycle is his trusty steed. He and his wife rode two-up until someone cut them off in traffic and they crashed. While she was in the hospital healing from her broken ankle, he was putting the Bonnie back together and she was picking out HER new bike. She no longer wanted to ride two-up because she wanted them to be more maneuverable. When she was back on her feet they went out and bought a motorcycle for her. Some people stop riding after a crash; now they ride more. If I had been wrapped up in trying to tell my story I never would have heard this story. Be a listener – you’ll lean something about people and you might learn something about yourself.
As I look at these points I’m left to wonder – is motorcycling a religion? I’m sure some motorcycle widows would say yes but I would say that it isn’t so much a religion as it is a lifestyle or theme for a community. So much of organized religion is about community and fellowship and witnessing the faith. At the Sunday morning gatherings we do witness to each other through our stories. The new friend I made today is a Triumph man, I’m a BMW guy, and there were Harley Davidson, Indian, Suzuki, Yamaha, and Honda riders all in attendance. Are these brands our gods? I kinda doubt it but we’re a community and there’s fellowship. And it is through this community, fellowship, story telling, and making of new friends that I am discovering my joy on Sunday mornings.