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The Importance of a Kickstand

A childhood lesson on leading by example and accepting that which you cannot control.

“photo of bicycle rim and tire” by Anton Darius | @theSollers on Unsplash

I was in the back seat of the car, Mom and Dad in front and we were about a half a block from our house when I saw it. My old bicycle, lying down on the ground in the front yard of a neighbor girl’s house.

My lovingly cared for banana seat and fringed handlebars were touching the dirt. Touching. The dirt.

I was outraged!

“Stop the car! We need to take my bicycle back home”, I immediately proclaimed to Dad.

I had recently gotten a bigger bike and we had given my old bike to a younger girl down the street. My youthful logic had decided that she did not deserve to have my bike if she wasn’t going to properly care for it.

Tossing it 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 potentially destructive act of tossing a bike to the ground instead of using the kickstand? Why?

The bicycle incident paints an accurate picture of who I am to this day. Attentive to details, respectful of the value of people and things, and responsible for things which are my responsibility.

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 begins to wander, drifting inside the run-down buildings in search of the people responsible for these places. I ponder about how this tragedy could have happened. What circumstances could have transpired to end in such a state of disarray?

Maybe the owners have physical, mental or financial limitations.

Maybe they are old and sick.

Maybe it’s owned by a slum lord.

Maybe they simply don’t consider caring for the world around them to be a top priority.

I keep moving, trying to shift the ugliness to the back of my mind. The answer is beyond my control.

Focusing on the positive displays of community pride and environmental nurturing is never more difficult than on Downtown Cleanup Day.

We suit up in old work clothes, don our gloves, pickup our grabber tools and march out of the house with purpose.

As we methodically walk through our assigned section, picking up trash intertwined in fences and caught up in landscaping, I am once again questioning how this came to be.

Lonely Sock — 2018 Downtown Cleanup Day

Is this grimy litter the result of the Kansas wind stealing properly discarded debris from

trash bins?

Is it the consequence of uncaring actions, the thoughtless discarding of rubbish?

And why must we always find a filth covered shirt and one lonely sock?

I will never identify the why, and in some cases I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know why.

All I can do to cope with the events of the past is pick up the trash and keep moving forward.

Mom and Dad did not stop the car that day so many years ago. They kept driving down the block to our home as they taught me an important life lesson.

Though they understood and appreciated my point of view regarding the bicycle, the bike no longer belonged to me and would not be retrieved.

I had to learn to let it go, move forward and not dwell on something that I could not change. I could not make the neighbor girl take better care of her possessions. She was beyond my control.

Witnessing the aftermath of neglectful behavior, regardless of the underlying reason, will always be distressing and baffling to me. That’s who I am.

The day with the bicycle was the beginning of understanding that I cannot change who others are any more than they can change who I am.

It’s a tough lesson for me to this day. I may always want to lecture these people on the practical importance of taking care of your property and your responsibilities.

The reality is they are who they are. The best I can do is lead by example in hopes that some will be inspired to follow.

So … I continue to use the kickstand, pick up the trash strewn about my neighborhood and try to be a positive influence on my little part of the world.

Your Thoughts:

In what ways are you a positive influence on your little part of the world?

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