I don't usually read much into happenstance occurrences. I’m not a big believer in omens, signs or prophecies but every now and then circumstances coincide in a way that makes me stop and think.
Let’s turn the clock back two weeks to Friday night, December 11. After a long, challenging day (at the end of a long, challenging week) preparing for our monumental 2015 Christmas Kids Bike Giveaway, I pedaled my rusty old city bike up our soggy driveway. After unpacking my spare clothes, lunch containers and other detritus from my handlebar bag I carried a well-earned six-pack of Oregon brews inside. Cheddar (the dog) wagged his tail and whined excitedly at my arrival as I set the cardboard carrier of longnecks on the kitchen counter.
The beer aficionados among you will be familiar with many breweries' practice of sneaking messages or images into the underside of their bottle caps. They are sometimes snarky and sometimes genuine, sometimes creative and sometimes bland but always a ploy to entice you to open another and see what lies underneath. In this case, I was far more excited about the contents than the cap but was taken aback by the poignant message revealed when I popped the top off my winter ale: "A Prost to: Volunteering."
Fast forward 10 days. Here we sit, basking in the afterglow of Saturday’s success. It is my great pleasure to offer up a hearty Prost! (German for "cheers" or "toast") to our volunteers who worked tirelessly since the first of October preparing for this one big day. Even after two solid months, they showed no sign of slowing down. If anything, they pushed up the pace even harder through the last two weeks right until we closed the doors Saturday afternoon. It was all I could do to tuck into the slipstream and fight to hang on! December 19 was absolutely the most rewarding day of my life and I have BBP’s volunteers, supporters and staff to thank for the experience. I'm still a little amazed that we pulled it off!
On Saturday, December 19, the Boise Bicycle Project provided 387 Treasure Valley kids with a bicycle, safety lesson, lights, lock and helmet at no cost to them. The kids and families who received these things may not be paying for them but I'll assure you that they are not free. This life-changing event was paid for by the hard work of BBP's volunteers and the incredible efforts of this entire community. I’ve been truly humbled by the outpouring of support over these last two weeks and feel so honored to have been part of the effort.
Our staff bust their butts to anchor the BBP’s efforts but the people who made this Christmas Kids Bike Giveaway possible aren't getting paid. The folks in the photo below (and hundreds more not pictured) are the ones who accomplished this. It isn't their "job" to repair 40 (or more) bikes per week over these last ten weeks. It isn't their "job" to patch hundreds of punctured tubes, replace innumerable skidded-out tires, shredded seats and torn grips. It isn’t their “job” to go the extra mile to give kids a dream bike that will blow their minds. It isn’t their “job” to stay up late baking treats for kids they may never meet. It isn't their "job" to call registered families to confirm appointments and answer tough questions. It isn't their "job" to criss-cross the Valley in search of bicycles to donate. It isn't their "job" to cross 387 names off the registration sheet, fit 387 helmets, affix 387 sets of lights, adjust 387 seats and handlebars, or to guide 387 youngsters through a bike safety lesson. It isn't their "job" to share their joy, cheer and generous spirit with all those kids and families but they do it anyway.
Ever since I started at the BBP I've been impressed by the desire, resolve and selflessness that our volunteers display. I've been truly blown away through this fall and winter. The amount of time, energy and care expended over this two-month process by so many people has been staggering. Frankly, sometimes I have a tough time understanding what motivates those people to go to such great lengths. Then I realize that they just get it. They believe in the power of the bicycle. They understand what a safe, well adjusted and properly fitted bicycle can do for a young person. They understand the sense of freedom and self-reliance that it can engender. They know what that felt like for them and want to share it with others. It is this shared understanding and sense of purpose that enables this community to accomplish such great things.
In a recent conversation, I realized that this entire process is a lot like a massive rope swing into a tree-lined swimming hole. For the first two months, we were climbing the tree. It was hard work, a little scary at times but we knew we were climbing toward something special and had our friends there to encourage us. When we couldn’t climb any higher we reached out and took hold of the handle, gauged the distance, took a deep breath and firmed up our grip. These last two weeks were the swing. They required a leap of faith and healthy confidence but once our feet left the platform and momentum built there was no stopping us. All we had to do was hang on and prepare for the release. This past Saturday, we let go of the handle and our timing was perfect. We felt the thrill of weightlessness as we hung in the air, suspended before splashdown, holding our breath. The plunge was over before we knew it and we have just now floated back to the surface, exhaled, looked around and realized what happened.
The impact created on Saturday is still rippling out, sending a wave of love through this community and beyond. THANK YOU to everyone who made this possible. You know who you are. Love the World.