blessed journey

“THIS SUNDAY after our 10 am service, we invite all types of bikes and bikers to join us in the courtyard as we bless the bikes and those who ride them with grace and courage on our city streets. We will be joined by members of PHEW (Philadelphia Electric Wheels) and the Mt. Airy Bike Collective.”

This Sunday is Youth Sunday at my friend Aisha’s church. She pastors Mt. Airy Presbyterian here in the city and they’re sponsoring a blessing of the bikes after worship service. There are lots of kids and adults riding bikes during the summer months. If only I still owned a bike, I’d ride over and have it blessed. I want to know if she would bless my car. Driving is a daily adventure inside and outside of cities and requires courage and grace as well.

A few years ago I traveled to Bolivia with a group of students. We spent time in a beautiful place called Copacabana along Lake Titicaca. The sun was intense and the landscape was breathtaking. Copacabana, Bolivia was the highlight of my time in the country even as I suffered from altitude sickness during the entire trip. My consistent sickness made me hate Bolivia but in spite of that I loved Copacabana and the view of beautiful Lake Titicaca. While there we experienced the weekly ch’alla or ritual blessing. The time when local people bring their cars, buses, trucks and boats decorated in bright colors, streamers, glitter, flowers, fruit, little plastic totems and things, and line them up in front of the white colored Basilica of Copacabana. The priests come out and bless the vehicles offering prayers for safe journeys, and then there are fireworks and champagne.  It’s an amazing sight.

Today my heart aches for a friend whose daughter died in a car accident earlier this week. She was only 16.  I cannot imagine what she and her family are going through. I know that death is a mainstay. We live. We die. It is the rhythm of life, but when someone so young dies it stings even more because they had so much life ahead of them. Statistics reveal auto accidents as a leading cause of death among teenagers aged 16-20, anywhere from 3,000 – 5,000 fatalities annually. That’s too much. What can we do?

One suggestion I offer, besides ongoing safe driving talks and practice with our teens, is a monthly ch’alla; a time of blessing for drivers both young and old, and their various modes of transportation whether they are bikes, skateboards, or automobiles. Bless the people, bless the vehicles, bless the highways, and take care behind your wheels so that the streets will be safe for all of us. Blessed Journey and Rest in Peace dear Thandi.

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About Calenthia Dowdy

Calenthia Dowdy (PhD, American University) is a cultural anthropologist and youth ministry educator who focuses on urban youth and culture in the U.S. and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Alongside teaching, speaking and writing on youth, cities, race, gender, and faith, she serves as the director of faith initiatives at a comprehensive community health center that specializes in HIV/AIDS care