Don Feidner

On the Road to Alvor

Last Update: 22 October 2010

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See also: Portugal 2008   Siehe auch: Portugal 2008

Dear Alex,

As I saw you running on Saturday, my heart began to beat fast with excitement, as though I were running with you, and I wanted you to win. You were giving it your all in the short race and I was disappointed when you came in behind a couple of others. When you were practicing a couple of days earlier, I watched you running around the track – with a rhythm that flowed like a champion – and your Dad said to me, “He can run like that all day.”

As I was pedalling on the road to Alvor, I thought about you and your family most of the way here. I thought about you running and the film I saw about an Indian, who was born to run. I also thought about what it must be like to fly over the water almost directly into the wind in a sailboat making negative lee. What an incredible talent it must be to be able to design a craft like that. The route I took to get to the campsite in Alvor was only 24 kilometers, but the ride took me nearly three hours because I kept stopping to take photographs of the things I saw along the way, and each photograph reminded me of something you said at the supper table a couple nights before.

In life, we all have a race to run – a race that continues until we are no longer here – and there is no winning or losing in this race. When you raced me to the bridge on the bicycle, it didn’t matter who won; it was racing itself that was fun. That’s the way it is in this race of life; we should always run it to win, but it is the race itself that is important. As I look around me, it seems that we have all been given talents and things that hinder us. My talent is the ability to learn languages – my affliction is lungs that do not function properly. Your talents and afflictions have not all been revealed, because you are still young, but one talent you have is certainly the ability to run like the wind.

As we run this race of life, we have a choice – we can be thankful for our talents and use them to do good, or we can waste our time cursing our afflictions. But I think we should be thankful even for those – because they keep us humble and help us to understand that life is not always as good as ice cream at McDonalds.

Your desire and your plan is to help others – philanthropy – and I believe that desire is in every one of us, but where did that desire come from? On the way to Alvor, I saw the bees pollinating the blooms of the almond trees; I saw a field filled with flowers; I saw the birds caring for their young; and I saw how the tide had reached its highest level, completely covering the sandbars that were dry when I saw them last week. (The water was so high that it covered the road along the beach and I had to push my heavy bicycle through the high grass to make it past one section of the road.)

All of these things can be depended upon every year. The high and low tides can even be calculated a hundred years in advance. Could this all happen without design? A sailboat that flies over the water and a practical home with a beautiful view over the landscape both require the handiwork of a master designer and builder. They don’t just come into existence on their own.

When I attended biology class at the University of Colorado, we were taught that everything evolved from a single cell that had emerged over millions of years from a symbiotic soup to eventually become a dog, or cat, or dinosaur, or a complex human being. When I went across the hallway to the anthropology class, the professor told us that anything left to itself went into a state of disorder – if we didn't keep our house maintained properly, it would eventually become a heap of rubble surrounded by high weeds. Who was I supposed to believe?

At the supper table you said, "There is no God." I once said that too – at a time when I went through a rough spot in life and had to force myself through some very high weeds –, and I cursed the religious fanatics and the hypocrites that created rules they could not follow and mental cages that locked them into meaningless rituals. But leaving that all aside, when I attempted to prove to myself that God did not exist, I could not do it, because the evidence of the existence of a Master Designer was everywhere I looked. I cannot “prove” that God exists anymore than you can prove that God doesn’t exist. And so we must be tolerant of each other’s views.

When I met your parents the first time, I liked them and they liked me. There was no strategy to force my way into their lives, they invited me, and we enjoyed each other’s company. And when I recognized that there was something, someone, bigger than me out there in our universe, I liked His gentle and loving manner, and I invited Him into my life in the same way.

And so I made it my goal in life to be a philanthropist – the same goal you would like to pursue, but your plan is much more detailed than mine ever was. I hope you carry it through – I really do. When I travel the world on my bicycle, if I see someone in need, I help them when I can. I place a coin in the cup of the lady on the street who has no legs, and I help people to repair their bicycles or to change a tire on their car. Today, I helped some men that were struggling to move some heavy wooden platforms on the beach, and they looked at me in astonishment and said, “Muito obrigado”. Afterwards, when I put on my helmet and pushed my bicycle down the beach, one of the fat tourists who was watching us said to me, “I thought you were one of the men” – and I was for a short while. There is nothing more fulfilling than to know that you have helped someone else – a very high goal –, because it means that you understand that achieving materialistic goals is not something that will make you happy.

When I met Pater Domingos Monteiro Da Costa in Mexilhoeira Grande last week, I found a man that was helping other people – by building a nursery, a kindergarten, and a home for the elderly. He is a true philanthropist, because he made a vow early in his life to remain poor to help others receive what they need. He devoted his life to promoting the good of others. From Germany, I can do nothing to help him, but I briefly explained his story on my Web site in the Internet and then added that if someone wants to donate to a good cause to contact him. When I return home, I will also make sure that the press in Germany gets a copy of his story as well. So even without building a hospital myself, I can make a good cause known to the rest of the world. That is philanthropy.

When I met a yacht designer, whose design was ignored, I placed his story in the hands of a philanthropist, who has experienced the joy of sailing, and who has the means to help – I planted a seed. Perhaps the seed will grow; perhaps not. That, too, is philanthropy – demonstrating love to others without expecting anything in return – and it is fulfilling and it makes life exciting.

Although I’m not obligated, there is something inside me that makes me want to do that kind of thing. Perhaps, someday, you will discover what it is.

I hope I see you again someday. Thanks for being my friend,


P.S. As I sat here alone on the beach at Alvor watching this sunset, I wondered what you were doing today, and decided to write this letter to you. If you have the time, please write me back and let me know how the race ended on Saturday. I wanted to stay, but I had to leave early so I could make it to Alvor before dark.



"There is no greater love than to give your life for your friends." John 15.13

For the complete trip in Portugal see: Portugal 2008  Um die komplete Radtour in Portugal zu sehen, siehe: Portugal 2008

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