Susan Sparks: If you don’t roar like a Harley, what’s the point?
Many years ago, my husband Toby took me to a biker rally at a dairy bar in Connecticut (an oxymoron if there ever was one). The place was packed with admirers and bikers walking up and down, comparing motorcycles and sharing stories.
Of all the gathered horsepower, one bike stood out for me. It was hard to miss—red flames on a jet-black gas tank, fringed ape-hanger handlebars that you had to reach high above your head to hold, pipes that looked like two huge corn silos laid sideways, and a sticker on the back bumper that read: “Vietnam: We were winning when I left.”
The owner (straight out of Road Warrior) wore dirt encrusted black leather chaps, a leather vest (shirtless – and shouldn’t have been), and a giant tattoo on his left arm that was something akin to the lounging woman on a tractor-trailer mud flap.
After a few minutes of polishing his chrome, Road Warrior took one last inhale off his cigarette, ground it under his harness boot, then swung his leg over the bike preparing to crank up and leave.
“This should be good,” I said to Toby, pointing at the huge pipes.
“Don’t count on it,” he sighed, rolling his eyes.
The man pulled the bike up off the kickstand, then turned to the gathered crowd, and with a Jack Nicholson grin, pressed the start button.
The sound that came out made me gasp. It was like a grasshopper going through puberty — breathy, high pitched, even a bit annoying.
I looked at Toby in disbelief.
“What do you expect? It’s not a Harley,” he said and shrugged.
“But what about all the leather and big pipes?”
“Hype,” he sighed, shaking his head.
Before I had time to register my disapproval, another sound exploded out over the grasshopper noise. It reverberated like the threatening rumble of an approaching thunderstorm combined with the subtle “potato-potato-potato” rhythm chugged out by the exhaust stacks of my uncle’s 1960 John Deere. I turned, and there behind us, gleaming in the sun, was a giant Harley Davidson.
Toby turned to me with an I-told-you-so look and said, “Now that’s a motorcycle.” After a moment’s pause, he added the tag line I’ve never forgotten: “Hey if it don’t roar, what’s the point?” (I’ve been a Harley rider ever since.)
If it don’t roar, what’s the point?
It’s true for motorcycles and it’s true for us. We can live life with a whimper or we can live it with a roar. We’re going to be riding down life’s road either way. Why choose anything but living life loud and proud?
So many people these days are offering a voice that sounds more like a grasshopper, than a roar — veiled concerns, passive good wishes, the ubiquitous “thoughts and prayers.” But if you don’t back these passive words up with action — with a roar — it’s only hype.
And a roar is exactly what it’s going to take. Our world is in turmoil. We are facing gun violence, racism, sexual predators, rampant injustice. We have to do something. As the book of James says, “What good is it if someone says he has faith but does not have works?” (James 2:14).
Maybe this means telephoning your government officials and speaking out against gun violence or calling out inappropriate words spoken against someone of a different color or manning the phones at a battered women’s shelter. Just pick one small act and begin. To paraphrase the philosopher Edmund Burke, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.
We’ve all been given a unique sound – a voice the world needs to hear. And we have but one shot to make ourselves heard.
Should we waste that precious legacy with a whine? No!
Fire it up.
Rumble it out.
In the end, if you don’t roar, what’s the point?
— A trial lawyer turned stand-up comedian, Baptist minister, and Harley rider, Rev. Susan Sparks is a nationally known speaker, preacher and author specializing in the healing power of humor. Contact her through her email firstname.lastname@example.org or her website www.SusanSparks.com.