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The Unnamed Bicycle Column: Christmas Magic

Bike shop donating cycles as holiday presents

I am an avid procrastinator, an Olympic-level Avoider of Things. And Christmas shopping is at or near the top of the list.

I despise all the commercialism, loathe hearing anything jingly before I’ve even taken down my Halloween skulls and assorted creepy things, and there’s a vein in my forehead that throbs with a dangerous and heavy metronomic thud when I hear the words “Black Friday.’’

I’m absolutely sickened by the naked money-grubbing and the co-opting of an entire season that ostensibly represents its antithesis. It troubles me on a number of levels, not the least of which is how effective the relentless marketing is on even those who already know better, like me.

But I have children for whom this season still has magic. In my house, there is still a Santa, and he rewards the good.

It’s a sectarian mythology that we’ve created for children that we adults almost have to believe in as well, or getting up in the morning would be utterly pointless.

If you’re good, you get a prize. Simple as that.

We know this isn’t always true. Bad people get rewarded all the time, while terrible things happen to good people, seemingly for no good reason. But we have to tell ourselves this is the exception, not the rule, or there would be no benefit to being good. And where would that leave us?

* * * * *

There is a company in Wisconsin I read about recently that donates refurbished children’s bikes as Christmas presents to families who are struggling.

Michael’s Bicycles, a bike shop in Janesville, Wi., donates about 40 bikes a year to the Salvation Army from its stock of children’s trade-ins. The bikes are rebuilt, greased and tuned and ready to ride. The Salvation Army then gives them to families to put under the tree Christmas morning.

That's Christmas magic right there.

* * * * *

I recently bought bikes for two of my kids. They’re not cheap. A new bike is not an easy thing to budget, especially when you’re choosing between lights that go on when you hit the switch or a shiny new bicycle, like so many millions of people are this year.

To say that it’s humbling to be unable to give your kids all the things they want for Christmas is something said by people who have never actually experienced it.

The reality is that there is little in this world that tears harder at your guts than to have to admit that you simply are unable to provide for your children the magic of Christmas; that what you are able to muster with all your might is merely the pedestrian of every day – lights, heat and food.

No one gets excited about overhead lights. No one unwraps a big box of heat. And food, seriously? It’s Christmas.

There is almost nothing sadder than looking at yourself in a mirror and knowing that the person staring back at you cannot provide the celebration that the people next door can, and that you’re going to have to somehow work up the nerve to sell that dime-store present as almost exactly the thing your child actually wanted, knowing full well you will fail and that the magic moment everyone hopes for, that moment when Glee Road intersects with Bliss Avenue and rains down eight tons of Happy is replaced with the crushing reality of Adam Smith’s invisible hand waving bye-bye to your child’s dreams and aspirations.

The good should be rewarded. Simple as that.

And a bicycle -- what could be a greater gift than a first vehicle, that, hopefully, fosters a life-long love of the velocipede?

Hats off to Michael's Bicycles.

* * * * *

I don’t know if there are any bike shops locally that do the same thing. If there are, I am unaware of them, and I apologize for not mentioning them here.

Do let me know in the comments below if you know of any, because that kind of thing should be lauded big and loud. And I’d be proud to say that a bike shop in our area was contributing to the magic of Christmas, especially in a time when the reality of daily life for so many contrasts so sharply with the season’s ideals.

Leigh December 12, 2011 at 05:52 PM
Not sure if they give bikes away though they might: http://www.secondlifebikes.org/ Used to be known at the Bike Church
Mickey Brewster December 12, 2011 at 06:23 PM
Glendola Bicycles owner Paul Kerns has given away thousands of bikes over the years, with absolutely no fanfare or publicity. Madonna House & Big Brothers/Sisters are two of the beneficiaries, who were lucky enough to receive his good tidings. We have always purchased our bikes from Paul over the years. You might get a cheaper bike at a huge store, but personal service and maintenance account for alot too. BY LOCAL!
Meg December 13, 2011 at 01:54 AM
I would like to give a second mention to Second Life Bikes in Asbury Park. Along the same vein out in Ewing/Trenton is the Boys & Girls Club Bike Exchange http://www.bikeexchangenj.org/ - I don't know that either organization hands out bikes for Christmas, but both are wonderful organizations worth mentioning here.

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