All this while working with kids in Kabul, Afghanistan and studying at Harvard's Divinity School.
Read his recent letter below and watch the video!
As fall eats up the last morsels of summer, I write with two world records to report (more below). But the kids in Kabul have been busy with their own record setting. Lida juggled three clubs for just over 59 minutes. Rumal also set a boys record.
You can check out the video: http://www.afghanmmcc.org/pages/Record.htm
In this video, Hamid dons a "One Wheel, One World" t-shirt. When I returned to the circus in June, the kids had painted a picture of the Unicycle4Kids logo on the circus wall. I don't know about you, but this kind of stuff turns me all mushy inside.
What's so compelling about a world record in, or for, a war-torn country, anyway? Perhaps it's the patience, training, and discipline. Or perhaps it is the breaking of limits, the challenge of doing the (seemingly) impossible. For many kids, impossible is precisely what is required to survive and thrive, with little resources, poor education and no guarantee for a job. Or maybe it is simply a matter of relationships, of friendships and laughter that have always brought people closer, across cultures and since ancient times.
Hamid, I gave the unicycle record another shot.
On a cold Fargo morning last week, I set out on a flat stretch of prairie road to break two records on a 42-inch Semcycle unicycle. Accompanied by a sidewagon, two witnesses for Guinness World Records verification, and some prayer beads from Kabul, I knew it was going to be interesting. It was the second trial. The first, in April, was unsuccessful after I took a spill and a vital bolt on the unicycle broke.
We needed a lull in the wind. To meet USATF standards for nominal wind interference, the wind had to be less than 4.4 mph. We found it at 6 am on Tuesday morning, August 29. A lull for 2-3 hours only, so we had to be quick. And I mean quick.
Speed. We decided to abandon the one hour record and go for maximum speed, allowing repeat trials.
The result? After four trials, two new records:
1. Fastest Mile on a Unicycle -- 3:26.22 , with an avg. speed of 17.45 mph
2 Fastest Mile on a Unicycle, while Juggling! (my favorite of the two) -- 3:50.63, with an average pace of 15.61 mph
Phew. Joggling is one thing. But when riding several feel in the air while juggling, every crack, bump, wiggle and sag in the road becomes more difficult. You can check out my post-record interview on Canadian public radio, "As It Happens".
(See "Unicycle Record")
For a video of the unicycling: http://jollyjuggler.com/theaction.html
These records are in honor of MMCC kids, but also Dr. Jules Lodish, someone who breaks records by living fully and listening deeply. Jules has been living with ALS for 13 years, 11 years on a ventilator. And though he can't laugh or smile -- his muscles are too weak for movement -- he still keeps an upbeat attitude about life, something much deeper.
A BIG thanks is due to my sponsors: Island Park Cycles of Fargo, ND, Semcycle, and Unicycle.com . And especially to Brian Arnett, Tom, Kari, Izzy and Miranda Smith (you guys rock), to the Fargo school system, and to the Mortons for their hospitality.
To share the unicycling bug, I gave a few shows to local K-4 schools in Fargo. I'm in love with the look on children's faces when they see something difficult made to look easy. I think that kind of wonder is the basis for spiritual depth (and even faith) in a lot of religious traditions. Not that juggling is a religion, but it does have some pretty fanatic followers. Myself included.
This is it for my unicycle record-setting… Fargo has been good to me! Everyone who has donated is good to children in Kabul. And what else is good? This: if you donate more than $14 to the www.Unicycle4Kids.org campaign (no, it is not too late), you can download FREE MP3s from Afghan pop artist. Using your contribution receipt (which I email personally), you can download Afghan groove from http://www.shawm.info/ .
So what's next for me? These gumby uni-legs are taking a break. But not for long. I have been scheming with an extreme sports company for just one more record. It's a surprise. You'll just have to read my next email.
Mashallah (may God preserve you, in Arabic),
Harvard Divinity School
"One Wheel, One World!"