Domestic Violence Archive

Sweet Vidalia

Posted April 28, 2017 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Deep in the heart of rural Georgia, a forty year old woman is about to graduate college. That’s truly an amazing accomplishment at any age. But if you peal back the layers of Sweet Vidalia, you’ll learn this is no ordinary woman.

Born on a farm to alcoholic parents, Vidalia was raised in a tumultuous environment. At the age of fifteen, the courts granted her petition to become an emancipated minor. She worked several jobs and rented a home from the parents of a friend.

Vidalia stayed in school and despite her very challenging life, she managed to graduate at the top of her class, earning her an academic scholarship to a major university. Life was really turning around for her.

Two weeks before she was to leave for college, her parents died in an alcohol caused car crash, leaving her younger brother and sister orphaned. Vidalia rode the bus to the college she was to attend and explained what happened. She told them she wanted to attend college more than anything but she could not leave them.

Vidalia once again went to court, this time on behalf of her siblings. And despite overwhelming odds, because she was so self-reliant, This now eighteen year old was granted custody of her two younger siblings.

Working tirelessly, Vidalia not only cared for them, she saved everything she could and sent both of them to college. Her brother is a computer programmer and her sister is in her residency as a physician.

Vidalia unselfishly gave up her plans, her hopes and dreams to provide a home for children. She did not stop until they graduated college. Once that happened, they insisted she go back to get her own degree. So she did.

In Sweet Vidalia fashion, she continued to work several jobs and took courses online. She’s finally completed all the requirements to matriculate and will graduate Magna Cum Laude. With degree in Social Work in hand, she intends to open a home for troubled children. It’s the same home she eventually bought from the parents of a friend when she left home. The same place that provided a roof over her orphaned siblings.

I am honored to have met such an amazing woman. Had she not told me her story, I would never have known. She so completely recovered, and excelled in life, despite a very rough start.

Sweet Vidalia is an example of the many layers we all possess. Sometimes the surface looks rough, dirty. Other times it shines but it’s always what’s underneath that tastes the sweetest.

Thank you, Vidalia, for your unselfish sacrifice to save two lives. May God grant you the wisdom to continue to carry the torch and fight the good fight. Because of you, the heartbeat of America is alive and well.

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Whispers of the Past

Posted January 25, 2016 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I drove through the hills of Alabama and Mississippi as the brisk winter air rushed in the window. Patches of snow and ice dotted the landscape but my mind was on the past. For the first time since Road to Freedom 2.0 began, I was retracing this particular segment of my epic solo bicycle trip from 2013.

 

I passed the McDonalds in North Gadsden where I’d taken refuge from one of the worst thunderstorms in history. The nearby church pavilion where I’d spent the night looked different in the daylight. I prayed that since my visit the members of that church had learned to be more accepting of strangers. They hadn’t realized I was on God’s errand and had passed me off as a vagabond.

 

I double-clutched my way through town and wondered how I’d managed to ride my bicycle loaded with gear along this busy road. I was also grateful there was no bicycle in the path of my big rig. Familiar buildings and landscape flooded my heart with memories as Sand Mountain came into view.

 

My truck lugged upward, dragging the 43,000 pounds of cargo behind it. I’m sure if a stranger but fellow cyclist named Norman hadn’t stopped and insisted on ferrying me and my bike over the mountain, I’d have strained more than my truck.

 

I cut through the outskirts of Huntsville where I was born. During that trip, I’d wondered if that would be where God would have me settle. But, now knowing it is not home, I trucked on without an emotional attachment to the city of my roots. I made my way west, riding parallel to Tennessee, my new home and where my heart now is. When I pedaled this same road three years ago, I had no idea where home would be. Today I am proud to call Tennessee home.

 

I passed Ivy Green, Helen Keller’s childhood home. I could clearly see its well in my mind’s eye, the place on the property where Helen’s life changed. I laughed as I passed the Coon Dog Cemetery, recalling the lavish memorials owners had erected for their hunting canine companions.

 

Finally, it came into view. I changed lanes and made a left turn into the place I’d been watching for. I backed my truck into what could have been a parking space, climbed down out of the cab and hurried into the store. There I saw him. My heart sang. The man behind the counter looked up as I approached. His eyes grew wide.

 

“Reba! You returned.”

 

“You remember me?” I was astonished.

 

He ran around the counter and pulled me into a hard embrace. “How could I forget the bicycle lady who introduced me to her God.”

 

Tears bubbled up in my eyes but through them I could see his tears as well. For the next half hour, he told me how different things were in his family and with his wife since we first met. (read the original blog post from 2013 here).  He no longer blames himself for his misguided anger toward her he’d displayed early in their marriage. He realizes he was a victim of his own culture and upbringing. He finally forgave himself. I could tell he was at peace.

 

I finally and reluctantly said farewell and headed west, thanking God that not only had He reached the heart of this victim/perpetrator of violence, but had allowed me to see the fruits of my labor. This man had come to America as a child to find freedom, only to go into bondage. He was bound by his tradition where men are superior and women are treated poorly. He was bound by not knowing the true and loving God. But God set him free and just seeing him on Saturday, there is no doubt that he is free indeed.

 

The heartbeat of America is alive and well in rural Alabama.

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Still Believing

Posted January 26, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Last night, despite my truck having been in the shop for a week and my wariness about it’s drive-worthiness, Austin and I made it to Idaho. After snagging a parking spot with easy exit so I could make it to my morning delivery, I entered the mom and pop truck stop to have a look around. 

Even though I’d stocked up on food before leaving Salt Lake City, I was in the mood to be around people so I headed for the all night restaurant and grabbed a booth. The place was nothing special. Looked like it was built in the 1950’s. So did most of the people, both customers and workers. They even piped in country songs that were popular when I was born.

Halfway through my chicken fingers and tator tots, two young men sauntered in and took the booth directly in front of me. They were as conspicuous as the Gerber baby at a dentures convention. Apparently, I was not the only one who noticed. After a sudden crash of ceramic plates to the floor and a deafening shrill from behind the counter, my waitress came running over to them and hugged the big member of this Mutt and Jeff duo.

“I knew you’d come back,” she uttered between tears and gasps. “While everybody else didn’t think so, I was still believing. And here you are.” “Here I am, mama.” He finally managed.  The brute swiped a tear away from his eye as he stood and embraced his mother.

I allowed them their moments of bonding but after what seemed life forever to me, the curiosity in me escaped and I did what I’m so famous at doing. I began bombarding them with questions. I just had to get the scoop in this joyful mother and son reunion. When Chipper was a boy, his estranged father took him and fled. That’s kidnapping in the state of Idaho, but although a manhunt ensued, they never tracked them down. All of Evie’s friends and relatives eventually gave up hope that Chipper would ever return. After all, he was only eight and even if he could get away, he wouldn’t remember where to come back to.  But not Evie. “No matter what they said, I told them I was still believing that Chipper would come back. I just knew I’d see him again.”

I asked Chipper how he was able to pull it off. 

“Well, first of all, I turned eighteen last week and as of that day, he couldn’t stop me. For for ten years, I saved every penny I got. I worked mowing grass, washing cars and anything else that would pay me. I stashed the money away where he couldn’t find it so that whenever I could, I’d be able to fly back to here. I waited until I was legally an adult so I could be on my own and not be taken by DCF.

“Last week on my birthday, I called the police while he was passed out drunk and when they came to our house in Minnesota, I told them what had happened. They checked it out and he still had an outstanding warrant. So they arrested my dad. I took his truck since I knew he wouldn’t be needing it and drove back as fast as I could.” Chipper then turned to his mother and said, “I told you I’d come back.” Evie hugged him again and said,”That was the last thing you said and I never stopped believing that.” 

Before the moment Chipper and his still nameless friend entered the lazy diner as the Idaho sun dropped below the horizon, it had been a normal day. Nothing special. Nothing noteworthy. Or so I thought. It made me realize nothing is ordinary. Nothing routine or mundane. God is forever orchestrating reunions, working miracles, and manipulating the entire universe to bring about His will.  As I walked back to my truck, I felt secure and blessed that through all the difficult circumstances I’ve faced in my life, like Evie, I’m still believing. I understood what a gift that truly is. 

I believe.

I believe in miracles. I believe in the goodness of others. I believe in the resiliency of the human spirit. No matter how tragic life becomes, I still believe. My hope and prayer is that you do, too.

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Thirty Seconds to Live

Posted November 7, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

While on my six day bus trip into the wild, wild west, I met Clara. She was a runner who had spent years under the fist of an abusive husband. A broken jaw and two missing teeth were the final straw and the catalyst that caused her to flee. 

Wyoming

Wyoming

I sat in silence as she recounted year after agonizing year of abuse. She told me of near death encounters with her husband. She suddenly stopped, cocked her head and asked, “What would you do if you knew you only had thirty seconds to live?”

Wyoming4

I knew that should have been a pensive moment. I should have paused to reflect on my fifty six years that had come and gone. I should have waxed eloquent with wisdom my silver crown had given. 

But, without hesitation, I blurted out my response. “I’d be right here with you, walking this path with you, even if it were only for the last thirty seconds of my life.

Clara’s eyes welled with tears as she took my hand in hers. “You really mean that. I know you do.”

Can't Life Your Dream Because of Fear? Get my book on Amazon!

Can’t Life Your Dream Because of Fear? Get my book on Amazon!

Curious, I asked her why she’d asked. I also wondered what she would do. Clara told me how she’d been faced with that very half minute before she fled. Her husband held a gun to her temple and told her she had only thirty seconds to continue to be alive on this earth.

“What did you do?” 

She took a deep breath and let it out. “I kicked him where it counts, punched him in the nose and ran like the dickens! The way I figured it, if I was going to die anyway, I might as well go out fighting!”

I high-five’d her right there on the Greyhound bus! 

It took a lot of courage to do what she did. I learned a lot from her story:

  1. A finite amount of time to live brings things in to perspective and gives you a sense of urgency.
  2. If things are going to happen anyway, you might as well follow your gut.
  3. Being faced with a violent end produces courage you might not know you possessed.

I wonder, if you knew you only had thirty seconds to live, how would you spend those last precious moments of time? Would you kick and punch and not go down without a fight? Or would you keep on doing what you’re doing, knowing you’re making a difference? Perhaps you’d use those ticks of the clock to turn back the hands of time, giving you more of it.

For Clara, as she exited the bus in a western town, she knew she had more than thirty seconds. In fact, a whole new life was just beginning for her. 

Clara faced her fear and found her freedom when faced with thirty seconds to live. What about you? Share it here!

 

 

 

 

 

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Six Days…

Posted November 6, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I bet you’ve been wondering where I’ve been this last week. Well, I slept for forty-eight straight hours. Why? Because I was up and traveling across the country for six days without any sleep.

Me on a Mission

Me on a Mission

I left Florida, crossed two states and did something I had not done since 1971. I boarded a bus heading west. I had to go to Salt Lake City on very important business and I decided to meet women on the way. So I went Greyhound and left the driving to them. I was not prepared for what I encountered.

During my six days (that’s 144 continuous hours of consciousness), I met 128 women who were on the run from their significant other. One by one I sat next to them, or they sat next to me on a bus. They told their stories of abuse. The were literally running for their lives in the cheapest way they could find.

Wyoming. That White Stuff is Snow

Wyoming. That White Stuff is Snow

One women, Sabrina, had just been discharged from the hospital after a three month stay. Her husband had run her down with the family car, breaking both legs, several vertebrae and leaving her in a coma for weeks. The surgical wounds still had staples in them. She was in tremendous pain and riding a bus was the worst thing she could have done… except staying with her spouse.

She was such a trooper. My heart went out to her, particularly at 3am when the agony was so great, she called out for anyone to help her. I went back and prayed for God to ease her pain. Thankfully, He did.

I Discovered in Wyoming Why People Wear Coats!

I Discovered in Wyoming Why People Wear Coats!

I met Henrietta in St. Louis. She boarded the bus with two children in tow. I couldn’t help but hear them asking mommy why daddy couldn’t come. She had no answer. Not wanting to say anything negative about their father, she opted for a vague answer and quickly changed the subject. 

Two hours later, the bus made a meal stop at a local McDonald’s. Who knew they did that?! Fortunately, a convenience store was right next door. I ran over there and found a coloring book. I grabbed it and ran back to the bus and took out a pack of  colored highlighters from my backpack.

Mountains in Utah

Mountains in Utah

 

When Henrietta and kids returned to the bus, I gave them to her. She and I talked while the children colored in their book. 

During my six days aboard public transportation, I saw country I’d never seen before as we made our way through Wyoming and finally Utah. I also saw a part of society that is hurting in a way I’d never witnessed.

Sure, I’ve seen people running in airports, at rest stops along the interstate, at hotels and in restaurants. But never before had I been so close to hurting women who did not have the means to flee in style. They didn’t have money for meals, even the value menu under the golden arches. Their eyes mirrored hearts that were empty and without belonging. I ached for them.

Me After Five Days and 120 Women's Stories

Me After Five Days and 120 Women’s Stories

 

I prayed for them and thanked God that I saw this underworld of women who are more courageous than the brave souls who pushed west to settle the once wild land we rode though on a smelly bus.

If I ever am tempted to complain about sitting in a plush airport waiting for a late airplane that will take me from one end of the country to the other in a matter of hours, I’ll remember my six days on a Greyhound. I’ll remember Atlanta’s bus station that was locked down while all passengers were searched and guns, knives, blades and brass nuckles confiscated.

I’ll remember cries in the night as wounds tried to heal, and children who didn’t understand abuse. They only missed their daddy.

Six days…

 

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Tuesdays at Tiffany’s

Posted October 23, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Okay, first of all, I didn’t leave Florida like my last blog post suggests. Here’s why. Dakota needed some adjustments and I wasn’t comfortable hitting the road until some things had been checked out. That took up most of the morning and into the early afternoon.

Making Adjustments on the Trail.

Making Adjustments on the Trail.

Then, I got a weather report that a very strong line of thunderstorms was moving across Florida and Georgia today. I would have ridden right into them. So, I delayed my departure by a couple of days. I’ll be rolling out at daybreak on Thursday morning.

Yesterday, I walked three miles down to three different stores trying to find packets of red beans and rice, a staple of my cook-on-the road diet. None had it. So, I decided to run into a local hangout for one last round of chips and salsa. There’s where I saw Tiffany.

The Geese Have Come South For the Winter

The Geese Have Come South For the Winter

We’d met before. She was my waitress a couple of times when I’d gone in for my favorite snack. Today I told her I would not be seeing her again since I was leaving on Thursday. I told her about Road to Freedom Tour and she hung on every word I spoke. Then came those words I’ve come to expect:

It Happened to Me

Tiffany was married to a man who beat her.  She would go to work and out in public making excuses and inventing stories about how she sustained her injuries. Finally, after he broke her hand, she mustered the courage to walk away. 

Can You See the Goodyear Blimp Just Above the Tree Line? Their Motor Makes a Really Weird Noise

Can You See the Goodyear Blimp Just Above the Tree Line? It’s Motor Makes a Really Weird Noise

To look at Tiffany today, you would never suspect she was ever a victim. Truly, today she is anything but a victim. She put her life back together and shine with a radiance and elegance of a fine Tiffany Lamp… albeit in many different colors.

I told Tiffany it took an amazing amount of courage to do what she did and yet, she reached deep within and found a way to do what she needed to do: get away from her abusive husband. As a result of that, no matter what she faces in life, she will be able to face it.

Tiffany is a shining example of how possible it is to overcome abuse. Women don’t have to live in that situation. There is hope and there is a way out to a wonderful life. 

Thatsalottachocolate

I didn’t find beans and rice packets but this is better anyway! 🙂

Tiffany spoke of trust. It’s difficult to trust after someone has abused them. Regardless of any situation, God has dealt to every man a measure of faith. Trust, on the other hand, must always be earned. But you can trust again, when the person is trustworthy. 

I so appreciate Tiffany, her spirit, spunk and desire to move forward with life. I want that for every woman who has been the victim of abuse or assault. Find the courage to take your life back from my Tuesdays at Tiffany’s.

 

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Blending into Nothing

Posted October 16, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Yesterday was a dreary day where I am. Clouds and drizzly rain with the temperatures in the upper 60’s were hardly the perfect photo op for a postcard. So I walked three miles to a local bagel place, pulled out my I-pad mini and got lost in a book.

Geese on the bike trail on a rainy day

Geese on the bike trail on a rainy day

After a while I noticed that I was being ignored, which isn’t a bad thing if you want to be lost in a book, but it got me thinking. What if I was needing help? What if I wanted people to see me? 

So I walked home, changed into my bicycle gear, hooked up my new trailer and pedaled back down to that same restaurant. I wheeled up right in front and leaned Dakota against the window. I walked in, ordered a bagel and sat in the same seat. 

Suddenly, folks began to notice this alien in spandex. Looks turned in my direction, many of them from the same people who’d ignored me moments before. 

What's not to notice!

What’s not to notice!

It seems I came out of the wallpaper to become a conversation piece. Men and women approached me. They asked where I was headed, how hard it was to pull a trailer, why I was doing such a crazy thing.

I was invited to join a group of women who took up most of a side room. They marveled as I told them about Road to Freedom. Interestingly, many of them had walked right by me without even a nod moments before.

It’s all about the spandex. Well, and loaded panniers, bicycle trailers on a rainy day doing what anyone in their right minds would never do. 

As I said farewell and headed back out to the dreary day, one woman followed me out. She had not been with the group. I’d seen her come in and tuck away in the corner on my first visit. 

Packing up, preparing for a Sunday departure.

Packing up, preparing for a Sunday departure.

“Are you really riding your bicycle around the country helping women who have been abused?” 

Did I detect a quiver in her voice? “Of course I am.” I handed her one of my business cards. “You can follow along on my journey if you’d like.”

“How do you get people to listen?”

“I wear spandex,” I said chuckling. “Would you like for me to listen to you?”

For the next hour we sat outside in the drizzling rain as Beverly told me the story of her abuse that started as a child, and continued to this day. Just like me on my first visit, the world passes her by without even wondering whether she was hurting.

I prayed with Beverly and recommended she take the bold step of getting some help. 

Through tears, she hugged my neck and said, “You’re the only person who’s taken the time to care and listen.”

As I rode off with cold drizzle hitting my face, it was a sobering reminder that women who have been victims of assault or abuse blend into nothing. They make it a point to not be noticed, all the while secretly pining for someone–anyone–to pay attention to them.

That’s why I pour my middle-aged body into spandex, pack all my belongings onto my bicycle and ride on a rainy day. Road to Freedom continues.

Trying to figure out what to pack is tough

Trying to figure out what to pack is tough

I’m putting the final brush strokes on my book proposal to get that off to those who have requested it. Then it’s off again. My departure date will be Sunday! Where I’m going only God knows but to be sure there will be women just like Beverly who need an alien in spandex to listen, to care, and to help.

God blesses the broken road that leads me to hurting women.

 

 

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Quest for Freedom

Posted October 14, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

On Saturday, I rode Dakota to a nearby eatery and met one of my favorite people in the world: Jane Young Hill. We embraced in a long awaited reunion and grabbed a table outside. Not only was the weather breathtaking, but it was much more quiet than inside the restaurant.

We caught up on each other’s lives over pumpkin bagels and regaled each other of our adventures, Jane with her family that is growing up too fast and me with the Road to Freedom Tour that has taken on a life of its own. 

LCSW Jane Young Hill and Me. What a Joyful Reunion

LCSW Jane Young Hill and Me. What a Joyful Reunion

The conversation naturally turned to the reason Jane and I met. She is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) and I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Jane and I worked together for a couple of weeks but she soon realized I needed intense help. She arranged for me to be admitted to Focus by the Sea, in St. Simons Island, Georgia. 

Once stabilized, Jane continued to work tirelessly with me to overcome the terror I faced. I found my way to freedom thanks to her expertise and willingness to see me through my quest… the quest for freedom.

We sat in the morning sun reminiscing about those weeks together and I admitted I know full well I would not be where I am today if God had not placed Jane in my path. I’d been to another therapist who, even through she was young and vibrant, fell asleep during our first session together. It was also our last.

I am happy, emotionally healthy and whole today because of Jane and Saturday morning, I wanted her to bask in the sweetness of the fruits of her labor. 

Dakota and my new Bob Trailer. The men in my life!

Dakota and my new Bob Trailer. The men in my life!

I asked her if she ever got discouraged or felt she was not making a difference. Of course she does. We all do. I told her the next time she felt that way, to think of me and know she’s doing a good work.

Two hours passed like a flash of lightening and all too soon, she went back to her therapy world and I mounted Dakota and pedaled west. The memories of our days together and the gravity of Jane’s efforts tugged at my heart. She gave all she had to contribute to my personal quest for freedom. Now it’s my turn. 

Can't Life Your Dream Because of Fear? Get my book on Amazon!

Can’t Live Your Dream Because of Fear? Get my book on Amazon!

Helping women along the Road to Freedom Tour is just my reasonable service. It’s my way of paying it forward. To show others the way to the freedom I enjoy and have had for several years.

Thank you, Jane and so many therapists, social workers, doctors, nurses and others who dedicate their lives to helping others find the way to freedom. May God multiply blessings back to you for your labor of love for humanity. 

 

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Shining Out of Darkness

Posted October 9, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Yesterday I left Orlando just as the sun was coming up and maneuvered Dakota through rush hour traffic. By 9:00am I was in historic Mt. Dora. I’ve been to this quaint little town dozens of times, but never on a bike and apparently never down particular streets. 

Found a Crazy Old Pan Am Plane on my ride. "Coffee or Tea?"

Found a Crazy Old Pan Am Plane on my ride. “Coffee or Tea?”

I noticed that homes began to look a bit run down and people on porches stopped to stare in my direction. Then I realized I might be in the wrong neighborhood when I saw a console TV sitting at the street with a bullet hole through the tube. 

My natural tendency was to pedal out of that neighborhood as fast as I could, but there was a woman on the front porch. What’s more, she looked she hadn’t slept in days. So I did what anyone would do. I stopped and waved to her. 

She waved back and gave me permission to approach when I asked. When I pushed Dakota closer to the house, I realized she had a little baby asleep in the chair beside her.

I told her I’d noticed the TV and how sad she looked and asked if there was anything I could do to help her. She balked at first but then realized she had a listening ear so she began to tell me about “baby daddy”.

Dakota found a place on the lake in Umatilla, FL

Dakota found a place on the lake in Umatilla, FL

For years he’d beat up on her and Shantrelle has taken it. But three days ago, he went after the baby. She launched out at him like a mama bear. He pulled out a gun and fired at her. He missed and killed the TV. Fortunately, the gun only had one bullet in it or he would have finished what he started.

I asked her where the shooter was now. 

“In Jail. Somebody called the law. What am I going to do? If he can’t work, I don’t have money to feed the baby.”

Like so many abused women, Shantrelle felt stuck. She felt she had to stay in the presence of a man who beats her mercilessly in order to get a few pennies to buy baby formula. 

Unfortunately, she was unwilling to leave and go to a shelter even though I offered to make the call. She did take my information though, as well as the number for the domestic abuse hotline. As I turned to leave, Shantrelle called to me and said, “God sent you to me today, didn’t He?”

“Yes, He did.”

As I mounted Dakota and pedaled out of her yard, her face was shining out of darkness in my mirror and somehow I knew her life would change. The seed I planted would grown and produce freedom fruit in Shantrelle’s life. In a not too distant future, she will be a free woman.

You just never know what could be shining out of the darkness along the Road to Freedom.

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So Why Are You So Passionate About Your Tour?

Posted October 8, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Early yesterday morning, I hugged my great friend and author, Roxanne Sherwood Gray, goodbye and Dakota and I pedaled off into the morning mist. I wound my way into Orlando through a series of roads and trails. 

Saying Goodbye to Friend and Author, Roxanne Sherwood Gray

Saying Goodbye to Friend and Author, Roxanne Sherwood Gray

At one place on the Cady Way Trail, two men road toward me on bikes of their own. Suddenly, one of them stopped and asked me to stop as well. He said he wanted to talk to me about what I was doing. His friend rode on while Don began asking all sorts of questions about why I was out on a bicycle alone fully loaded with gear.

Don wanted more information so I invited him to join me for lunch. I’d already planned to stop by a local eatery and visit one of my favorite waitresses, Donna. I didn’t expect him to but Don showed up right on time.

Lake Baldwin at Baldwin Park

Lake Baldwin at Baldwin Park

Over chips and salsa, I explained Road to Freedom to him. He was intrigued and asked if he could ride with me. He offered to show me a less congested route through Orlando. When ominous clouds opened up and dumped on us, he found us refuge in a city park.

We sat on picnic tables as he asked question after question. He just couldn’t figure out why I was so passionate about Road to Freedom and the women I serve. I tried the best I could to explain it but, in all honesty, I don’t quite understand it my self. All I know is those women are suffering and I must go to them. 

When the rain finally stopped, we said out goodbyes and headed off in different directions. I turned, and rode, backtracked and improvised my way through heavy Orlando traffic. A second wave of storms roared through. I stopped put on my Burley rain gear and pedaled on, grateful for my 100% waterproof panniers.

Up in the distance I saw a woman walking with a small child in tow. Neither she nor the child had any protection against the storm. I rode up to her got off Dakota, took off my raincoat and put it over the child. It drug the ground. Through the raging storm, I asked her where she was going. Fortunately, they were going to where she worked, right up the street. 

Weeping Willows at Baldwin Park Before the Rains Hit

Weeping Willows at Baldwin Park Before the Rains Hit

I asked her if I could sit the child on my bike, and offered to push him to her place of employment. She almost melted in gratitude. I zipped up the rain gear around his ears, hoisted him to Dakota’s seat and off we went. When we finally got to the store where she worked, I pulled out my camp towel from my pannier and dried her son off, then handed the towel to her.

As she wiped away what raindrops she could, she asked me what I was doing on the road in the rain. When I told her about Road to Freedom, she told me how she and her son escaped domestic violence at the hands of the child’s father. Things are unbearably difficult for her but it was better than the abuse.

I told her I was out there to help her…to give her the courage to keep moving forward in spite o