As we go into the holiday season, I just wanted to tell this story so perhaps when things get hectic over the next couple of weeks; perhaps we can take a deep breath and think about what’s really important.
As many of you know, I like to ride my bike. I have a lot of friends who are in the bike community and like to ride with them when I can. If not, I’ll be out by myself. Either way, it’s fun, and can be a good workout.
Last Saturday morning I got up early to catch the group ride out of Champion Cycling in Mandarin. The ride goes right by my neighborhood so even though it leaves at 7:15 from the shop, I usually leave around the same time and catch the “bunch” on the road. It was perfect when I left, a really beautiful golden sky as the sun came up.
What I didn’t know is the sun was catching the edge of a big front so when I got about two miles from my house, the bottom fell out. I ducked under a tree, put my stuff in a plastic bag and tried to wait it out, waiting for “the bunch.” But in about a minute I was soaked and no sign of the riders. So I figured I’d rather be soaked riding than standing there, so I headed back on the road trying to find the group. Of course, they took a detour and I never did find them, but since I was already soaked, I figured I’d put some miles in.
Almost two hours later after wind and rain and questioning my own sanity, I was pretty close to home when my back tire went flat. “Perfect,” I thought, as I fumbled for my phone looking for a ride. For some reason, I happened to look up and not 50 feet from me a guy was standing in front of his pickup truck in running shorts waving and asked, “Do you need help?”
He obviously had just finished the Mandarin 10K also in the rain. “Where you headed,” I asked, a little warily. “North,” he said. “Can you drop me at Champion?” I wondered. “Phil’s place?” he said with a laugh and finished, “sure.”
So I threw my bike in the back and he drove me the couple miles up to Champion Cycling. He told me his name, said he rode out of the shop on a regular basis but lived in Arlington. Phil knew him, “Grey truck?” Phil asked. No big deal right? Nice guy did me a favor.
But on Tuesday night I was at Starbucks in Lakewood and happened to be on the phone when I pulled up as a guy pulled up next to me on a nice Harley Road King. As I continued my conversation, the guy got off his bike and walked over and knocked on my window. I rolled it down and motioned that I was still on the phone. He waved and backed away. But stayed right there. When I finished the conversation, I rolled the window down and said, “What’s up?”
He walked towards me; one hand supported by a cane, and said, “Hey, I know you!” “Thanks,” I said, “nice bike.”
“Yeah, I like it,” he answered. “I rode up here from St. Augustine,” he continued “and when I went to put gas in my tank I realized I left my wallet at home. Can you help me out with a couple of bucks to put gas in the bike?”
“Sure, let’s go across the street to the Shell and fill it up,” I offered.
I was somewhat stunned, not because somebody was asking me for money, because that happens all the time. But rather I couldn’t get the image of the guy helping me out on Saturday out of my mind.
“Gee, God,” I chuckled to myself, “this is kind of fast!” I’ve always believed in “Paying it Forward,” but I laughed at the quick, “payback.”
The guy mumbled something about high octane and I could see that he was uncomfortable with my offer, so I got out of the car and said, “Hungry?” He demurred, adding “Sam, it was hard enough asking you for money for gas.”
So I said, “Come on, let’s get a cup of coffee.”
He gladly followed and after ordering coffee, we sat and talked for about 20 minutes before I had to get to work. I put enough money on the table to fill the tank of his bike and buy a decent meal on his way home. “Is that enough,” I asked. He said, “Man that’s plenty,” so we shook hands, I wished him well and back to the station I went.
Still no big deal right?
Except last Saturday I was up early again for the morning ride, but it was freezing out, so I put it off for an hour before heading to the road. About halfway into it, I saw the front tire going flat, (different tire, different bike) so I pulled over to fix it. Of course, TSA took my CO2 cartridges out the last time I traveled with my bike, so I was stuck.
Again, I fumbled for my phone and again, a guy appeared not 50 feet away at the intersection, rolled down his window and said, “Do you need help?” I almost laughed out loud but couldn’t get the images of the last week out of my head of being helped and trying to help.
So I threw my bike in the back of his Pacifica, said hi to his teenage son in the back seat and accepted the ride, once again up to Phil’s place at Champion Cycling.
He went out of his way to drop me off and all I could do was again say thanks, shake his hand, wish him luck and tell him how kind his offer was.
And of course, all I could think about lucky I was to be in a place where people were so kind and generous and hope to be able to replay that again in the future.
So for the holidays, when things aren’t going exactly how you’d want them to, look around, there might be somebody who needs a little more help than you do.
I know I will!