Last week my neighbor-through-the-alley mentioned that she wanted to get her grandson a 20-inch bike to ride around when he came to visit her. She didn't want to spend a lot, but she was willing to spend something. She asked me for some ideas on where to look.
After a short Craig's List search and one phone call, I had lined up a virtually new Novara boys bike listed for $40. We stopped and looked at the bike on the way back from an in-law birthday party; the bike was in almost show-room condition (in fact, the tires still had the whiskers on the side-walls). With no further delay, $40 USD changed hands and the bike came home with us, less than 24 hours after the alley conversation with my neighbor.
The kid now has the bike (and loves it), I got my $40 plus a tip back (with a nice hand-made thank-you card to boot). What's more, the neighbor has told me repeatedly how much she appreciated the help.
Yea for me, I guess.
I mean, it's great to be appreciated and all, but honestly, this was really no big deal. To put this into my cynical perspective, I browse Craig's List regularly, anyway. I know bike brands, so it was very simple to find a decent bike, look at the price, and decide wether or not it was worth chasing. Frankly, all this effusive gratitude kind of left me kind of perplexed.
While I may not be bright, I have finally figured out that confusion is often a hint that there is a lesson to be learned, so I did some ponderin' on this...
Here's the deal:
To my neighbor this was no simple task. She doesn't know bikes and probably is not CL-savvy, so therefore she didn't even know where to begin, except that she didn't want to go to a bike shop and ask questions, which would have helped.
To me this was a lay-up.
People of Earth, this is the best possible situation for doing a favor. The gratitude and benefit will always, always be significantly greater than the effort. Here's why...
Tapping into ANY special skills or knowledge you have, and targeting a beneficiary that could really use the help is powerful; it enables a person to essentially "fall off a log" and have the same positive impact as "moving a mountain" with a lot less pain and suffering.
File that away or discard it as internet trash from a posuer if you prefer.
On an unrelated note, I ditched my MPLS Bike Love account and have seceded from so-called "bike culture" effective this past weekend.
That bold statement doesn't really mean anything. I'll still ride my bike and organize rides. I'll do bike favors and admin Bikebyshooting on Flickr, etc., etc. What's changed is that I no longer have a screen name on that "best of the Twin Cities" website and I won't be yapping about stuff on the forums.
MBL was very helpful when I moved back to MPLS from Los Anchorage and through the difficult times at work, and I am still grateful to Jeremy and the others for making that happen. That said, I've been growing away from that scene for awhile now and it became clear this weekend that the image-consciousness and drama of that scene is a waste of time for me at this point.