Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Kindness of Strangers

I may not have always depended on the kindness of strangers, but I'm pleasantly surprised, nonetheless, when a stranger lends me a helping hand. I've had bike problems the past couple of days, and three strangers helped me in small, but significant ways.

Yesterday, I was trying to fix a flat on my bike. The innertube had completely deflated and snaked its way out of the back tire. The complete bike novice that I am, I had no clue how to fix it. So I decided to instead take the bike over the local bike shop. The only problem: the bike shop is about a mile from my dorm, and the flat on the bike made it infeasible to roll. So I was faced with the prospect of carrying the heavy bike a mile to the shop under the blistering  noon sun. I could only carry it a few dozen feet at a time before taking quick breathers. I tried rolling the bike only on the front wheel, and while that made the load a bit lighter, I was still anticipating a long slog to the shop.

I'd only made it halfway down dorm row, when two facilities workers spotted my plight. They were likely busy with their own work and had no ostensible reason to take an interest in my problem. But they did. One asked me about what happened and I told him I was on my way to the bike shop. He commiserated. His friend took a look at my wheel and wondered if he couldn't get the innertube back inside the wheel so that I could at least roll the bike to the shop instead of carrying it. He turned my bike over and proceeded to do exactly that -- the tire was still flat, but at least, now the innertube wasn't dangling oddly outside the wheel. I could now roll the bike on both wheels -- what a relief! They gave me a few more tips and wished me good luck. I thanked them heartily and was on my way with a considerably lighter load.

This morning, I took my newly fixed bike out for a spin around the river. The attention of a third stranger headed off another potential bike calamity. Halfway through my ride, I was stopped at an intersection when a biker next to me pointed out to me that my front wheel was loose. He indicated a latch at the hub of the wheel that had come undone. A very small act, but nonetheless, one I'm very grateful for.

There are two lessons I could draw from these stories. One is that I need to learn more about proper bike maintenance ;) But, second, and more importantly, I'm reminded about the ultimate goodness of humanity. On the news, we're bombarded daily with stories of all the atrocities humans commit against one another. But it's refreshing to take stock of the small acts of kindness that don't get as much airtime, but which people perform everyday. It makes me smile and reminds me of the importance of kindness :)


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