Photo credit Josh Roppo via Facebook
That’s a photo of *me* 😬 at last Saturday’s Second First Annual Ladd’s 500 with a lyric from Soul Coughing’s “Circles”. I just wanted to have a photo for my blog post because I think a blog post is improved by a photograph and this is a recent picture of me and it shows me in motion and that’s important and that’s what this blog post is going to be about: the value of staying in motion, of having something to do and doing it.
Give Them Bikes! is a name I thought once while daydreaming in a UBI class in 2014. As of 2017, our main activity is Chain Reaction, an Earn-a-Bike Cooperative housed in the basement of a Central City Concern residential building. We have a staff of two – myself and Andrew – and a meager but growing number of program participants, beneficiaries, and contributors. It is currently the space where I most consistently give to my community, and I am realizing recently how important it has become to me, how much I personally benefit through my work there.
I’m from Pennsylvania and I feel like that makes me an expert on cynical people and I know there is a suspicion of those of us who devote ourselves to projects of charity, that we are inherently dishonest by proposing to serve to others, as we get something out of it – perhaps a paycheck or a smug sense of superiority – and that makes our cause somehow less righteous. I hear those criticisms in the back of my head when explaining my dream public benefit business to a bicycle cynicist I may know or meet or imagine, but I need to get over that. There’s no reason to be embarrassed about the fact that I have actively looked for meaningful work in my life, or that I have had some success in this search and get to do a super cool bikey feel good thing, or that I am someone who needs reasons to live.
All things considered, I’ve had a fairly cozy experience of being a human being, but that hasn’t stopped me from being scattered and crazy, from feeling intense sadness at the knowledge that everyone will die, or just sometimes being a motionless depression slug binge-eating sour brite crawlers in bed through a long, gray winter while I wonder if there’s any value to this life I chose.
I don’t know if I have diagnosable seasonal affective disorder, or what that really means, but I know that it’s easier to feel good being outside when the weather is nice, and the weather was real nice for that super silly bike race on Saturday where the picture above was taken and I got to go as fast as I could and after the race a really nice man named Mike who never met me but read my email on the Shift list lent me a trailer and I was able to accept a large donation that will go a long way towards improving the quality of both the bikes we sell and the bikes we provide for our students. True facts: bikes make the world a better place and better bikes make it more better.
This past Tuesday, I woke up in a bad mood and spent the morning’s ride complaining about how I work too much – more or less 7 days a week in some capacity – and it feels like a drag, but then I got to Chain Reaction and a light fixture that’s been burnt out all year in our humble basement bike shop was finally repaired and in the new light our tool bench shone and it felt better to be there then than it had before and I was pleased find myself again moving from this darkness, back to the light, back to feeling joy at the privilege of serving others, back to the value of activity and community.
Next week will be our 8th class of the season and I expect us to finish 4 bicycles, more or less right on schedule. I love the day when people take bikes home. There are always last minute setbacks and much fretting, human drama, and wringing of hands, and then we get it all sorted out and bikes go out the door and everyone smiles. I have that to look forward to very shortly.
Today I met Tom of Rosewood Bikes, a place I’d been hearing about for a long time but had yet to visit. They’re still on hiatus for renovation – like my forever friends at B4H – but the renovations are well on their way and I feel completely inspired by our visit, by a sense that things are happening, that other people are also working to get bikes to people just because they too think it’s a thing worth doing.
Sometimes, all I see are the obstacles, or I look at a thing that is good and bemoan that it is not better, and when I think about Chain Reaction I tend to think about how much there is to do and how I can’t do it myself, but what I’m realizing or remembering is that I don’t have to. There is a whole community of engaged, hardworking people in this city, and if I stop hiding and just keep myself in motion, we can push this thing forward together, because it’s just good and I’m not the only one who wants to get right with what’s good. ✌️