Our dark blue Pontiac was headed down 9th Street with the family positioned in the usual configuration. Dad in the driver’s seat, Mom on the passenger side and my brother and I in the backseat killing time on our respective sides of the car. Uninterested in the conversations bantering about the interior of the car, my mind wandered into the passing homes of neighbors.
We were about a half a block from the modest three-bedroom brick home tucked snuggly into our little piece of the neighborhood grid. That’s when I saw it. My bicycle, lying motionless on the ground in the front yard of a neighbor girl’s house. It was a painful sight for my eyes to witness.
My lovingly cared for friend with a banana seat and fringed handlebars was touching the dirt. My mind envisioned torn fringe, grass stains soiling the side of the banana seat and bugs trespassing on the spokes. Imagination led my conclusions to jump to anger.
Blinking through the outrage, I knew this was my fault. My needs had grown past what my friend could offer, and I had replaced her with the promise of something better.
How easy it was to hand her over to a stranger, never considering what it meant for her future. There was only one logical solution to correct the travesty I had perpetrated on my loyal companion.
“Stop the car! We need to take my bicycle back home,” I immediately proclaimed to Dad. Conversations required interruption. This was a state of emergency.
Having recently graduated to a bigger bike, we had given my smaller bike to a young girl down the street. Clearly the vetting procedures for the bicycle adoption process had been inadequate.
She did not deserve the privilege of owning my bike if she was going to shirk the responsibilities of custodianship. The simplicity of youthful logic is adorable.
Tossing a bike to the ground as if it’s an abandoned piece of garbage was unthinkable. It only takes a few seconds to use the perfectly good kickstand designed specifically for this purpose.
Why would anyone choose the destructive act of allowing gravity to introduce a bike to the ground instead of using the kickstand? Why not embrace the virtues of the kickstand rather than deprive the kickstand of its intended contribution to society?
Dad kept right on driving. The parenting moment sprung upon them by my unexpected outburst was no match for their on-the-fly prioritization skills. My older brother had conditioned them well.
Though my point of view regarding the bicycle was understood and appreciated, the bike no longer belonged to me and retrieval was not imminent. I had to let it go, move forward and not dwell on something that I could not change. Forcing the neighbor girl to take better care of her possessions was beyond my control.
The why behind human behaviors baffles and intrigues me even to this day. As I walk through my downtown neighborhood, I see examples of irresponsible neglect sprinkled among well-maintained properties.
Not uncommon really. Most neighborhoods contain the good, the bad and the ugly.
My mind wanders, drifting inside the run-down buildings in search of the responsible people. I ponder the circumstances leading to such disarray.
In the light of optimism, the owners may have physical, mental or financial limitations. Regretful in the lack of strength, will or means to carry out responsibilities.
In the darkness of pessimism lies the potential of a slum lord who simply does not consider stewardship of the world to be a top priority.
Reality is more likely a gray mixture of sunshine and clouds. I will never know if the characters coming to life in my imagination are near or far from the truth. I keep moving, prioritizing the ugliness to the back of my mind. The answer is beyond my control.
The morning of Downtown Cleanup Day, we suit up in old work clothes, our grabber tools clenched in our gloved hands and march out of the house with purpose.
Picking up trash intertwined in fences and caught up in landscaping, I am once again questioning the how and why of the here and now.
Has the Kansas wind stolen debris from trash bins and dropped it about with an air of random casualness? Or is the grimy litter the consequence of uncaring actions of people?
All I can do is pick up the trash and keep right on walking.
My foolish desire to lecture people on the practical importance of taking care of property and responsibilities is also beyond my control. The reality is we are who we are and sometimes acceptance is the only achievable victory.
The best I can do is lead by example and hope that some will be inspired to take a moment and care enough to use the kickstand.
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