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Vocal Point: Couple’s gift of bicycles was Christmas lesson

Christmas giving has never really been my thing. I’m frugal with money, don’t like crowds, and feel that it inspires senseless spending on unnecessary items. It seems to be a far cry from its original intentions. At 40 years old I thought I was thoroughly burned out on Christmas in every way. A recent event has changed that.

My wife has taken on the responsibility of organizing gifts for a family in need. The economic downturn displaced them out of their home. For me I thought of it as a large inconvenience in an already hectic time of year for us. She does have a tendency to spread herself thin, and it frustrated me that she had done it again. She brought up some of the items that the family requested. I selfishly decided that if I helped her get some of the larger items, I could get her back on task with things around the homestead.

They needed bicycles for transportation. This was something I could help with and easily. I spend lots of time on Craigslist, and even have an app that makes looking for stuff there easy. I searched for three days without finding anything close that filled the bill. We were slowly running out of time, so I decided instead of searching I would place an ad describing exactly what was needed. I asked that the bicycles be reasonably priced, hoping donations my wife had received would cover the bill.

I placed the ad and 15 minutes later my wife came upstairs stating that someone had responded by email and had a men’s bicycle they were willing to donate. Of course I was skeptical, but I called the phone number that the bicycle donor provided.

The voice on the phone was raspy but chipper. I pictured someone that might sit next to you in a smoky bar much before 5 p.m. After speaking with him and explaining what we were putting together in more detail, he said he had another bike that needed a tuneup and would probably work for the woman. He said it wouldn’t be ready until Monday, but we could pick up the men’s bike immediately. We had soccer practice for our kids near his location, so I let him know we would call on our way in.

I called as we were approaching his residence. The man let me know that he had finished tuning up both bicycles, and was in the process of installing a rack on one of the bikes. He said this would help them if they were using them as their primary source of transportation and needed to carry things like groceries. At this point I started getting the feeling that this is too good to be true.

We pulled up to their apartment, walked past a child playing with a stick, and knocked on the door. We were immediately greeted by a woman close to our age. She was quiet but friendly. As we entered the home the man whom I had spoke to greeted us. He looked like a tough guy, but spoke with words of caring. They were both extremely excited to help this young family in need.

There were five bicycles in the home. It didn’t take long for us realize bicycles were their primary form of transportation. They didn’t have much, but wouldn’t take money for the bicycles. He had obviously spent a great deal of time fixing them up and tuning them. Everything on both bikes was smooth in operation, and they were spotless. We spoke with the couple for about 10 minutes, and they insisted on putting one final touch on one of the bikes. A set of saddle bags for carrying things they were sure the young family would need.

We loaded the bikes in my truck, and we drove off to soccer practice. I glanced over at my wife and noticed her eyes were glassed over. I have to admit I was pretty choked up myself. She said to me “this is what Christmas is about.”

I have to agree with her. It overwhelms me that people with so little can be so generous. I haven’t felt so good to be part of the human race in a long time. Their gift to the family in need was also a gift and a lesson to me.

Reach Brent Higbee by email at brent_amihigbee@