Alongside a border, seventy children came together this past Saturday morning to learn about riding a bicycle. The bikes that were there to be loaned out had been lined up in rows. They were, like the children, of all sizes, and, like the children, seemed to glow in the south Texas January sun.
Bright green vests and brand new helmets were handed out in a flurry, and then, there were no more. The children were lined up in pairs, facing the Belden Trail, a wide, thoughtfully-created bike path that is the kind of thing that makes one proud of their city.
Seventy heads of all sizes were leaning over their handlebars, and seventy pairs of eyes were squinting ahead into the sun. And then they were off in a flurry of pedals, near-misses and shared focus.
Some of the children crashed at the beginning of the ride, and some crashed upon their return, but there were no serious injuries, just laughter and the battle against gravity and the discipline of the Ones In Charge. The adults, for all of their responsibility, were kind with the children. “Stay to the right, now!” “You can do it! I will stay with you!”
In the midst of all of the activity, it was these helpers who got my attention. They were unfailingly cheerful, offering constant encouragement. For these four hours on this Saturday morning, these volunteers were simply there for those kids lucky enough to have found someone to lend them a bicycle, a helmet and some attention.
And then the event was over. The bikes and helmets were handed back in, and everyone left on their separate ways, although already looking forward to the next biking event.
What struck me about the morning was the simple, ordinary goodness of it all. While putting the event together was much more work than one might imagine (so much work!), it was, and should be, the sort of thing that we should all expect to be happening in all of our neighborhoods, and all of the time. It is a simple, good thing that adults take a morning off to share with children the glorious freedom of riding a bike. That this experience was created especially for children whose families can’t afford a bike lifted the event from the category of the good into the realm of beautiful.
I spent the last part of that Saturday morning riding beside Jocelyn, a quiet seven year old stuck at the back of the pact, and who spent a lot of energy wrestling with her bike. But then, as we turned down the stretch that took us to the finish of our ride, she suddenly leaned out over her handlebars and began peddling like mad. “I am leaving you behind!” she shouted back at me, laughing. I laughed as well, thinking, “Another child has learned to fly.”