The towering trees, rising from the hills of Marsh Creek’s western shore, were silhouetted against the yellow super-moon, setting as the night sky succumbed to the dawn’s chase. The moon glowed brightly with the reflection of the rising sun’s light, a final conversation between the two as they continued their perpetual pursuit of one another. I was caught in the middle, in the space between night and day, paddling west toward the last of the moon’s brilliance, then turning around and going east toward the inevitable victory of daylight.
The scene reminded me of one of my favorite books – Jack London’s The Call of the Wild. I imagine somewhere out there, in our nation’s vast wilderness, a pack of wolves was howling to that glowing celestial ball orbiting this earth. Closer to Marsh Creek Lake, where I paddled for 24 hours straight, it was probably a pack of coyotes. But during those night hours, time and space came together as the moon, stars, and wisps of clouds reflected on the lake’s glassy surface. It was only broken by the occasional faint breeze and the bow of my kayak cruising through the moonlit darkness.
From Friday, June 21, at 7 p.m. to Saturday, June 22, at 7 p.m., I kayaked exactly 100 miles at Marsh Creek in order to raise money and awareness for Safe Harbor of Chester County. Safe Harbor is a homeless shelter on North Matlack Street which provides many amazing services to Chester County residents who are in need. They offer meals, overnight shelter for 20 men and 20 women, and the hope and opportunity to turn lives around. It is a great, and much needed, organization in our community.
With the help of the staff of Safe Harbor and the congregation at my church, the West Chester Church of the Nazarene, people from the community sponsored me per mile with donations to Safe Harbor in order to make this event successful. In fact, if you go to Safe Harbor’s website, it’s not too late to give a donation!
I’ve been doing ultra-marathon kayaking since 2009, when I paddled the world’s longest continuous non-stop river race, the Missouri River 340; yes, the 340 stands for 340 miles. And since then, I’ve completed a handful of other races in various parts of the country, as well as other distance kayaking fundraisers for homeless shelters.
Some might say it’s crazy; believe me, I understand. Even as I was out there on Marsh Creek, during the last few hours and the remaining 20 or so miles, with my mind and my muscles exhausted, every other thought was calling me to just stop and call it quits. But remembering that this wasn’t for me, but for the people of Safe Harbor, helped me persist in fighting on to 100 miles.
Still, my exhaustion was only for a single 24 hour period of time. I knew that once it was over, I could eat a decent meal, take a needed shower, and rest in a soft bed under a roof. Not everyone has that opportunity; there are many, even in the West Chester area, who don’t have those blessings. When I lived in Kansas City for a few years, I worked at a homeless shelter; people who walked around the city during the day with a suit and tie and you would never know they were homeless – they grabbed a blanket at night and slept on the concrete until they were woken up in the middle of a cold winter night and told to move to the next corner. And even here in West Chester, poverty exists around us. There are people in need.
But the amazing thing is that each and every one of us has an awesome opportunity to help!
Kayaking is something I enjoy; through doing something like paddling 100 miles in only 24 hours on a lake with no current to assist, I hope I was able to do something to help those in need. It might only be a drop in the lake, literally, but it is something. I’d encourage all of us to creatively think about the capabilities we have and do something to not think selfishly of ourselves, but to think selflessly about others in order to help people who are in need. And if you’re wondering where to begin in the Chester County area, and whether it is through volunteering or a financial donation, Safe Harbor is certainly a great place to consider!