"Do now, do now, what you will wish to have done when your moment comes to die." [St. Angela Merici]

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

3 Things Tandems Have in Common with Life

By Micky Wolf

A beautiful, late summer day. Water in the distance, a cloudless sky, a peaceful, smooth path that wended its way through sun-speckled arches of greenery, dancing shadows of majestic old oaks and maples at our feet. Here and there, neatly manicured patches of annuals and perennials, ablaze with hues of reds, yellows, and oranges.

And then there were the two tandem bicycles. My beloved and I astride one, our adventurous, considerably younger couple-companions on another.

Let’s put it this way—it ain’t as easy as it looks to keep those darned contraptions upright and moving in smooth, forward motion.

So, I’ll cut right to the chase. We left them in the dust. Not because we rode fast, or it was a race to the finish. Not because we are great athletes. Not even because we had the perfect bike. Nope.

If anything, our ease in completing an enjoyable ride on the eight plus mile path had more to do with learning early in our married life—often the hard way—the importance and application of three key principles. Clarify. Communicate. Coordinate. With, or without using words.


At any given moment we needed to be clear about our objective—starting, stopping, turning, increasing or decreasing our speed. And we needed to understand our positions on the bicycle. The front rider is responsible for steering and direction. The back rider is responsible for helping to provide consistent ‘fuel’ to keep the wheels turning.

As with life, each of us have been given specific gifts by our Creator God. The more clarity we have about those gifts and the ways they are to be used in service of others, the greater the likelihood we stay on course. As important, the more effective we will be as part of a larger team.


We took a few moments before we began the ride to decide what words and signals we’d use—and who or how they would be used—so we could pedal in harmony. A count of “one, two, three”, would precede a start or stop. Especially necessary when four feet and two sets of pedals seem to have a mind of their own. “Lean right” (or left) helped with lane changes or turns. “People ahead, right” meant veer to avoid a wipe-out, of them or us. And so forth.

As with life, we tend to assume other people—including our spouses or companions—can read our minds. Never a good thing. We run the risk of misunderstanding their intentions at best, blaming them for any bad consequences at worst.


Neither of us could see the other for the all-important eye contact. He had to focus on what was directly in front of us. I could look to either side, or occasionally glance back to alert us to any traffic that might be bearing down, unannounced.

As with life, choosing to cop a damn-the-torpedoes attitude may produce results—if you don’t care about leaving a wake of destruction in your path. On the other hand, how many times would you have accomplished more—with less mess and stress—if you’d thought to involve another person, or identified a team for a particular task or mission?

By the time our younger companions arrived at the bicycle depot they were exhausted and frustrated, adamant they wouldn’t be taking up that mode of transportation any time soon. 
It was only near the end of their ride that they developed a strategy to make the most of teamwork.

Nonetheless, they did agree they were the wiser for having made the attempt in the first place. In that awareness, maybe not such a bad outcome after all.

Do you try going it alone most of the time? Why?

How do you feel about being in front? Taking a back seat?

Which of the three “Cs” is the most challenging for you?

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