Libby fell in love with The Fuller Center’s mission first as a volunteer, then joined last summer’s Bicycle Adventure

This community knows how to roll with the punches

A word that seems to hold more importance now than ever is “community.” How can we uphold community during a time when it’s safest to be far apart from one another? This summer, I’ve been thinking about that often. One community that’s been on my mind is The Fuller Center.

I first found myself a part of the Fuller Center community in college during a spring break trip with the covenant partner in Albany, Georgia. A crew of 20 other Wittenberg University students and I spent a week landscaping and putting up new siding and a roof on the house of a man named Mark. We were told that Mark, who lived alone, was shy and would probably not interact with us. Indeed, the first day a swarm of college kids attacked the wild shrubs outside of his house and learned to nail vinyl siding and shingles, Mark watched from the window. The second day, he emerged onto the porch stoop, holding his cat. By midweek, Mark was out there with us, helping to turn the exterior of his home into something beautiful and telling stories about his childhood.

As a surprise on the last day, we painted Mark a mailbox with cats on it to show our appreciation. At the dedication ceremony, Mark told us, “I used to think I was alone, but now I know I’m not.”

After that experience, I fell for the mission of The Fuller Center and for the way it brought communities together. I knew that wouldn’t be my last involvement with the group. In 2019, I went across the country with the Fuller Center Bike Adventure. It was something I’d been wanting to do for a while, and I finally decided that the time was ripe to jump in. I barely knew what I was doing on a road bike, but found myself welcomed into the FCBA community. I may have thrown myself into a crash course on distance cycling, but I certainly didn’t feel alone.

One skill an FCBA participant has to learn quickly is rolling with the punches. Our biggest punches on the 2019 trip seemed to be the weather any time we cycled up a mountain. In Montana, we got caught in a thunderstorm and then, on the day before the start of summer, a snowstorm! In Utah, we battled 25 mph headwinds up a canyon that — quite frankly — resulted in some tears. But together, we rolled with it, and the punches didn’t dampen the laughs we had along the way. The world is in a constant state of change now, and I think that, like last summer, we’re working together to adapt.

What’s been weighing on my mind lately is how different this summer is from the last. Last summer seemed to be a compilation of carefree moments. We stopped and talked to people in gas stations, diners, and the side of the road. We told them about The Fuller Center and handed them a business card. We slept on floors and ended long, hot days shoulder to shoulder on a bench eating ice cream. We hugged freely. We gathered tightly into little chapels and sang heartily. We shared meals. We bonded over freezing community showers. We traveled to a new place nearly every day. We passed a paintbrush, a hammer, or a saw hand to hand. We struck up baseball games with strangers. This year, we’re learning to roll with the punches engage in community a little bit differently.

That’s why when I heard about the Global Home Challenge, I knew that participating wasn’t a question. It was a way to uphold the community of The Fuller Center and keep working for change even when everything is different. I have a safe, cozy house to spend most of my time in. Others don’t. I have a job and the free time to enjoy the outdoors as much as I can. Others don’t. I have a phone, computer, and internet access that I can use to speak up about issues like affordable housing even when I can’t talk to people face to face. Not everyone can do that. There may not be traditional bike adventures this year, but the FCBA community still cares about its mission, and I still care about engaging in that community.

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