I’ve always loved to bike, and I have the scars to prove it. Ever since my favorite babysitter taught me how to ride, I’ve loved taking my bike out somewhere, anywhere. When my life fell apart a couple of years ago, my bike was my best friend. Never mind the fact that multiple members of my family were seriously ill. Never mind that my long-term relationship had broken up. No matter how awful everything was, I always knew that I could leave my problems behind while I attacked Vermont hills with my bike. I loved my bike.
Last year, when my lupus decided to take its job of killing various parts of my body more seriously, biking was one of the last things I gave up. I tried biking early in the morning to limit the sun-exposure… but eventually I had to concede defeat. Since then, I have kept my bike in my apartment, hoping that my doctors would get my disease under control, and allow me to return to my normal activities. It hasn’t happened.
This week, my graduate school's listserv sent out an email requesting bicycle donations. A local group of former Peace Corp volunteers runs a program in which they send donated bicycles to families in the developing world. For these families owning a bicycle means increased employment or educational opportunities. I thought about it for several days, and finally decided that, while I may someday be able to cycle again, it’s not likely to happen any time soon. Why not give the bike to someone who needs it now?
So this morning I packed my beloved bicycle into my car, and drove over to the donation center. The gentleman who helped me unload it was clearly surprised; it was much nicer than the bikes they usually receive. “Did you get a new bike?” he asked, as he reassembled the bike. “No…I got too sick to ride,” I answered. Clearly not a response the man expected from a twenty-something. “I’m sorry to hear that,” he said quietly, and we left it at that. I got my tax receipt, was thanked repeatedly, and drove off.
I’m not sharing this to imply that I’m an unusually generous person. I’m not. Nor am I a believer in Dr. Pangloss’ doctrine that “everything that happens is for the best.” But for those of us who are chronically ill, positives are few and far between. Knowing that my bicycle will be given to someone who desperately needs it makes me feel better about having to give up (at least temporarily) a lifelong hobby. I hope that whoever receives my bike will be as well served by it as I’ve been.
On my way home from the donation center, my car’s CD player, which has been broken for several months, turned on and started playing Handel’s Messiah. Chalk it up to God, karma, or fortuitous coincidence, it was a fitting requiem for my old friend.