Monday, October 2, 2017

Bike Hunt Stories Show the Power of Bicycles - Story 1: Peaches

Since publishing my memoir, Bike Hunt, at the end of August, I’ve had many deep discussions with readers via email, phone, and Facebook as well as in person. The Interbike trade show a few weeks ago drew readers to the One Street booth to share their thoughts inspired by the book.

The top theme of these discussions has been how and why humans tend to act so badly in groups. This plays out in many nonprofits, and certainly played out at the Thunderhead Alliance while I was the director there in the early 2000s – the timeframe of the book.

Running a close second for readers’ are my detailed accounts of what I call Bike Hunts – my tales of searching for and then giving away used bikes whenever I travel. During my disturbing time at Thunderhead, my Bike Hunts were my only connections back to the world I’d known before taking the job. They were so important to me, I recall fine details of these precious moments simply helping strangers with bicycles.

Each Bike Hunt story shows the significant impact a bicycle can have on someone who is struggling, though it’s simply me giving a bicycle to another person. No anti-poverty program. No ribbon cutting. No media. Just two human beings and a bicycle.

So I thought I’d share some of my favorite Bike Hunt stories from Bike Hunt in this blog, starting with a bright pink girl’s BMX bike I found at a Goodwill during a conference in Miami and named Peaches:

            On the last evening there, after Gayle and I packed up the booth and dealt with the shipping service, I wheeled Peaches out the front door to find her new home. It was already dark and I worried that anyone I approached might be even more suspicious of me than usual when trying to give away a bike. I pedaled Peaches carefully along the busy, multi-lane road, the typical road type I’d seen all over the area. No wonder there were so few people riding bicycles there. Cars swept past my left shoulder as I focused on keeping the handlebar straight, scanning the sidewalks for someone who would adore Peaches. The few people out were rushing somewhere else, no time for a bright pink bike. I rode on into the night, heading west away from the city and into hardened neighborhoods where iron bars were favored over business signs.
            Ahead, three small figures were walking much slower than the other people I’d seen. They were speaking softly as they walked, looking at each other rather than the sidewalk. One was likely the mother, barely five feet tall. The boy was only a bit smaller than she was, perhaps ten years old. The smallest was a young girl and she had on a pink coat. I swear Peaches sped up as soon as I spotted them, but I pedaled back to slow down. I didn’t want to startle them so I eased onto the sidewalk at the next driveway and got off to walk toward them.
            “Excuse me,” I said, and watched with dismay as they all jumped back in fright. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”
            The boy whispered in Spanish to his sister and mother and they both nodded at him. “It’s okay,” he said, and stepped in front to lead them past me.
            “Just a minute,” I said, “can I ask you something?”
            “Yes, of course,” he said as he stopped to listen.
            I gave him my giveaway spiel and suggested maybe his sister would like the bike. When I had finished, he nodded to show he understood, then turned to the other two to translate, taking his role as translator and negotiator very seriously. As he retold my story in Spanish, both of their faces brightened, and when he came to the end, the girl jumped up and down, still staring up into her brother’s face as if to make sure he’d really said it. The mother began speaking very rapidly as the boy encouraged her with “si, si.”
            He turned back to me. “My sister would be very happy to accept the bicycle,” he said in a business-like tone, “and my mother would like to thank you very much. You see, yesterday was my sister’s eighth birthday and she had hoped for a bicycle.”
            The Bike Hunt had succeeded yet again.

Peaches’ Bike Hunt story is one of many throughout the book. I’ve got my eye on several more to share on this blog. All will have the label “Bike Hunt” so you can easily find them.

Better yet, you can buy your own copy of Bike Hunt to read all of the stories and more. Find it through any online book vendor worldwide (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.) or order it through your local book store. We also have copies for sale at www.OneStreet.org.

Sue

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