A word from Supt. Quintin Shepherd of the Victoria I.S.D.

Closing Thoughts: Breakdown on the road

Dr Quintin Shepherd

Dr. Quintin Shepherd, Supt. of the Victoria I.S.D.

The following is an article written by Victoria I.S.D. Supt. Quintin Shepherd:

I ride a bicycle quite a bit on the weekends. I have various routes all over the county and plan my routes mostly based on which direction the wind is blowing. Around this time of year most of my rides are Southeast into the wind on my way out so I can catch the wind on the way back. From my house, I can ride “the triangle” if I catch 87, heading southwest, pick up Commerce Street (616) to Bloomington, and then back northwest on 185. It works out to about 40ish miles and is mostly safe.

It’s the “mostly safe” part that usually catches people’s attention. There are a few things that increase the danger slightly. First, I always ride alone. It’s not because I don’t like other riders, but because I really enjoy the opportunity to have some time to just think. I do a lot of problem solving, scenario planning, and future thinking on my bike. Being alone is definitely more dangerous than riding with a group. Another element of danger is a few dogs in Bloomington that are sometimes loose and create a few moments of high anxiety and high intensity interval training (it’s like an unplanned HIIT workout in the middle of an endurance activity). My route is also slightly dangerous. Although there are wide shoulders on Port Lavaca highway and 185, cars and trucks are moving around 75+ mph and that creates an element of danger. I have had to stop a few times when I get a flat and there is a decidedly dangerous feeling when those cars fly by just a few feet away.

The breakdown last week wasn’t me on my bike though. It happened as I was coming over the bridge and about to turn towards Bloomington. A few miles ahead, I could make out a truck on the side of the road and a person kneeling next to the flatbed trailer behind the truck. As I got closer, I could see it was a man, who appeared a bit older than me. My initial thought was “danger.” I was going to have to ride onto the highway and off the shoulder because he was taking up most of the shoulder. That would put me directly with cars on the highway coming up behind me, not at all safe. Or maybe I should stop and try to walk my bike past, but then I would be walking up to this gentleman and that adds a different kind of danger (especially if he had a dog in the truck, I have this thing about dogs). All my initial thoughts were about me. “What would happen to me if I…”

Then like a bolt, the question hit me differently. “What would happen to him if I don’t…” I talk a lot about compassionate leadership and although it is almost reflexive, it’s not always. Compassionate leadership is more than empathy. Empathy is recognizing this guy is in a tough spot. I initially had empathy, but that was all. Empathy is better than not caring at all about the struggles of others, but sometimes empathy just isn’t enough to impact real change in the world. Empathy plus action (the feeling I need to do something about it if I’m able) is compassion. As a colleague importantly pointed out, compassion wouldn’t have entered the equation if the motorist didn’t want help! My ability to be compassionate is at once about my willingness to help and the other’s willingness to accept that help. This balance of what would happen to me if I stopped and what might happen to him if I don’t is a lesson that is good to remember because it’s sometimes not natural. As many of you know, the story is no different from the story of the Good Samaritan. Needless to say, I stopped and offered to help John replace the tire. He was extremely grateful, and after a few minutes a bit bemused that he now had a story to tell about this goofy cyclist, in the not-so-modest spandex cycling gear, and who happens to be the Superintendent in Victoria who stopped to help him change a tire. I told him nobody would ever believe him so he should probably keep it to himself.

By Supt. Quintin Shepherd