Roar and Fear

Roar and Fear

One of the biggest events for our city is one of trepidation for those who hold preconceived notions of others.

Roar on the Shore, began in 2007 with about 10,000 motorcycles that descended upon our city and took it over for several days. Erie made national news as celebrity Peter Fonda (“Easy Rider”), first grand marshal for the event, led a rally of bikers from the outskirts of town to the city center. If you weren’t sitting along the parade route you could still hear the thunder of the riders from all over town.

This weekend, Roar on the Shore will bring in over 165,000 motorcycle lovers and an anticipated 30 to 36 million dollars in local revenue. Downtown will be closed off and our main park becomes transformed into a motor mecca with vendors of all sorts catering to the motorcycle enthusiast. The event is an infusion of money, tourism, and large personalities into our city.

This event is also a major fundraiser; this year the money will be donated to the Sarah Reed Children’s Center. Since it’s inception, Roar has raised more than $840,000 for local charities since it began.

Last night my husband and I walked down to watch the bikes ride in and enjoyed watching the diversity of cycles and riders. We even saw Santa on his 2018 sled! What we also noticed was the fellowship and community as we stood with thousands of others along the parade route. Among those were 2 very good friends, joyful religious sisters who were waiting to catch a glimpse of one of our local priests riding with the masses (pun intended). It is custom for some of our local parishioners to host a priest on the back of their bike. A few years ago, this clergy member was our Bishop!

The night before the big parade, Jerry and I went to a downtown bar and restaurant for trivia night. The Roar on the Shore event was just getting started – many bikers were already in town, the vendors were open, and a free concert was underway.

Downtown was filled with black leather and shining chrome; it was also very much an adult atmosphere.

Alcohol, immodest dress, foul language, tattoos, and smokers often contribute to the bias against the biker community. Sadly, those holding preconceived notions about how people look and act often refuse to attend Roar on the Shore, keeping them from enjoying the free concerts and the festival atmosphere. More importantly, their biases rob them from meeting amazing new people and hearing their stories.

For example, we’ve met Catholic and non-Catholic Christian riders who proclaim Christ boldly; some with ministries where they hand out bibles and pray for and with others.

As I reflect on the first two days of Roar on the Shore, I think about the biases I hold and how they keep me from learning about others, experiencing new things, being with those outside of my ‘comfort zone’, and being Christ to others.

Why do I hold these biases? Fear.

My greatest fear? The elderly. [stay with me, there’s a connection.]

I can’t believe I actually just typed that out… but it’s true.

I have a fear of senior citizens and nursing homes; ironically, this is the ministry that the bishop has assigned to my husband, Jerry.

Now, before you judge me for my fear of your grandma and grandpa, let me explain a few things… which I acknowledge I need to work on.

  1. As someone who is very independent by nature, always wanting to do things on my own, I hate asking for help. It’s a trait that I project onto others. I want to honor the dignity of the individual, not take away their ability to try to help themselves. This can put me in the predicament of not knowing if and when they actually need my help. I don’t want upset someone by helping them if they don’t want it. [Simple solution: I’ll start asking if they’d like my help. duh.]
  2. As people get older they deal with illnesses, disease, and failing mental ability. At the nursing home it is not unusual hearing moaning and crying, smelling off-putting odors, and seeing the sadness and frustration from family members and overworked staff. It makes me uncomfortable because I don’t know how to help them. [Solution: Get out of my comfort zone by imploring the help of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta or Blessed Pier Giorgio.]
  3. I am having difficulty with my own hearing and hate to keep saying, “what?” to my own daughter, let alone someone else who is deafer than me and won’t use their hearing aid. [Solution: It might be time for me to suck it up and look into my own hearing aid.]

Since retiring from parish ministry and attending Mass more regularly with the nursing home community, I’m slowly becoming more comfortable with some of the residents. As Jerry introduces me to these incredible individuals at coffee, & donuts, I’ve gotten to hear some of their stories.

During the week, when Jerry gets home from his ministry with them, he tells me about their lives and the crazy experiences they share with him. They have the coolest stories!

One woman used to work for the FBI, one man was a pilot in WWII, some are priests, and several residents were lay ministers in their parish and continue to be active in ministry as residents in the community.

I’d bet that some of residents even owned a Harley in their past and would have ridden in Roar on the Shore!

If I continue to allow fear to rule this part of my world, I will miss out on a rich heritage, great wisdom, and amazing stories of courage and hope. My prayer is that I lose the fear. Humble myself and just be present to this community.

So, I ask – what are your biases, who or what cultures or communities do you avoid? Would you be willing to open your heart and recognize that you’re looking at someone created in the Image of God just like you?

Greater than my fear of the elderly is the fear that I upon my death I will hear the words, “I do not know you.”

Instead, I hope that you and I are told, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Please pray for me as I pray for you and…

Ride On!

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