The proudest moment of my life was also the most embarrassing.
It was the summer after I graduated from college and I was in Michigan leading adventure trips for high school students. For the last session of the summer, two other counselors and I were assigned to lead a group of 12 high school freshmen on a 362-mile bike trip from Mackinaw to Fremont. It was the first time that I biked this kind of distance and many people had their doubts that I'd be able to do it. In fact, when I was first assigned the trip, my mother asked, "does your boss know that you can't ride a bike?" Well 361.9 miles later and I was still going strong, Mom. The uphills had been tough, my legs never felt more sore, and I lost a ton of weight-- but the downhills had been easy, the meals never tasted more sweet, and I lost a ton of weight.
So there I was, after two long weeks, biking into camp through a sea of campers and counselors. The entire camp (about 150 people) had gathered to line a path from the entrance, across the grassy peninsula, and straight to the waterfront where we could dive into the lake after our ride. I was very clear with the campers to keep both hands on their handlebars as we biked on the grass. After all, "you don't want to be the idiot who falls on his face in front of the entire camp, do you?" As we biked into camp, I brought up the rear and was proud to see that my campers had adhered to my advice. Even though my friend Jimi was begging for high fives from everyone, all of my campers passed him without lifting a finger. As I passed by, I felt somewhat sorry for him so I decided to turn back and give him five. And the strangest thing happened when I turned.
Apparently, when you turn while riding a bike the front tire also turns and, if you’re as lucky as me, this causes the tire to dig into the ground. All of my weight shifted forward and I pretty much did a wheelie on the front tire. And since I had a ton of camping gear strapped to my bike, the weight caused the front tire to bend in half. Which, in turn, caused my bike to flip. The seat flew upwards and I somersaulted over the handlebars while pedaling the entire time. I swear, if the front tire weren't completely ruined I might have landed upright and kept going. However, that was not the case. The roaring applause of the camp came to a screeching halt as 150 people feared for my life.
Luckily, I was unscathed. I crawled out from under my bike and gave a wave to the crowd to signify that I was alright. At this point, I heard the loudest laughter that I have ever heard in my entire life. Tears covered the cheeks of every man, woman, and child as they keeled over in delight.
In the distance, I saw my campers and co-staff crossing the finish line and diving into the lake. I needed to finish. I grabbed my bike and quickly realized that there was no way it would ever ride again-- the front tire was bent completely in half (from the side, it looked like an 'L'). So, there was really only one thing left to do.
I Cool Runnings-ed it. I carried my bike the rest of the way while the crowd laughed and laughed and applauded and laughed. And as I got to the end of the line, I passed one of the youngest campers who was too short to see my epic fail. He watched me jog past with my bike on my shoulder and his mouth dropped. He turned to his counselor and asked, "Did he carry it the whole way?"
And to that boy, I was a hero.
Even when we’re at our worst, we can rise from the experience and inspire others.