We are who we are… (literal short)

23 11 2012

Forward:  Most of you who follow my writing know me as a somewhat negative and pragmatic person.  Those of you who have known me in real life, for any length of time, know that I’m not really that same person.  Negative yes, but in more of an upbeat manner and not quite as pragmatic.  Imagine if the Odd Couple were just one person, that would be me.  My writing is Oscar Madison and in person I’m more Felix Unger

Yesterday was like any other Sunday around our house, lazy.  I spent the entire afternoon throwing the football to a neighborhood full of future NFL receivers.  Once I go across the street to the park with my two boys, Conner (7) and TJ (9), kids seem to come out of the woodwork.  The end result for me is a good nights rest, and a really sore shoulder the next morning.

Added to the fray yesterday were two new kids I’d never seen before, Caleb (10) and Chris (12).  After spending some time talking to them, I found out they were new to the neighborhood, brothers from northern California.  They were polite and respectful, two things that are a rarity with most of the kids I come into contact with in the neighborhood.

After an entire afternoon of throwing the football around, it was time to head back across the street and home.  Walking home I noticed one of the kids bmx bike didn’t have a seat on it.  Seriously, how in the blue hell do you peddle a bike around with just a pointed chrome bar pointing at the family jewels?  This had complete disaster written all over it.  I mean you may as well find a WWI German helmet with the spike on it, and weld it to the frame.

So I had to ask, “Hey whose bike is this?”

The new boy Caleb owned up to it in a very sheepish manner, “mine.”

I could tell he was embarrassed and didn’t want to draw attention to it in front of all the other kids.  Just then, in a split second, 3rd through 6th grade came flooding back to me in an flash.  I remembered the freedom and importance of the BMX bike.  I also remembered how having a cool bike meant something, and how having a clunker, aka 4th generation hand-me-down Huffy, was a badge of shame.  Then somewhere four levels below that, in bmx hell, was having a bike with no seat.

Not on my watch.  I could just see it, this kid goes off a sidewalk or small jump and he spends the rest of his life thinking about how nice it would have been to have kids.  I waited for the other boys to clear out and asked him about the bike.

“So where’s the seat?”

“I don’t have one.”

“I.. see that.., so you just ride everywhere standing?”

“Yeah, my legs get pretty tired”

Then he proceeded to tell me it was free from his church.  I knew better than to ask why his parents hadn’t bought a new seat for him.  These are tough times and from the way the boys were dressed, it was obvious the family was on a pretty tight budget.  As luck would have it I just so happen to have a bike that a family who moved out left in the street.  TJ carried it home with designs on my renovating it… It’s sat along side the house for 6 months.  I’ve been busy.

“Caleb, this is your lucky day, wheel that thing over to our driveway.”

What started out as simply adding a seat, turned into adjusting and tightening his handlebars, which actually came off the bike in my hands.  We tightened and oiled the chain, which kept coming off as well.   Then added about ten pounds of air to each tire.  It may not have been the Hollywood ending of the brand new looking bike, but at least it was now serviceable.

To be honest, it was no more than fifteen minutes out of my day and some spare parts, but to this kid it was as if a miracle had just happened.  He spent five minutes testing the new ride, smiling from ear to ear, finally stopping back in front of me with a pretty nice power-slide.

“I forgot what it’s like to sit… I don’t know how to thank you or how to repay you.”

“I’ll make you a deal, next time you have the opportunity to help someone out, do it, and we’re even.”

“Deal!”

He shook my hand and headed down the street with his brother, sitting while he peddled.  Ordinarily I’d say that most kids would just blow my idea off.  But I have a feeling this kid will live up to his end of the bargain, and help someone else out.  Which does someone like me good.

It gives me hope that not everyone in this world is a selfish, thankless, self absorbed jerk.  For the next few days I’ll be a little less negative and a little less pragmatic.  I’ll try to remember that although few and far between there are still plenty of good people.  In simple terms, I’ll try not to be realistic and instead think there’s still good in this world and there’s hope for the future.

Oops, Sounds like the feel-good dust is already starting to wear off.  Oh well it was one hell of a 24 hours!

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