One of my most prized possessions growing up was my bicycle. It was the old school type. A white banana shaped seat, wide handle bars, and a beautiful baby blue color. I cherished that bike. Santa Claus delivered it on Christmas Day 1984. I was seven years old. It snowed that Christmas, and Momma let me try and ride it in the snow because I was just that excited.
For as much joy as that bicycle brought me, it also brought me tough love, punishment, and hard life lessons. I seemed to struggle with self control when allowed to ride the bike. Whether it was not coming in on time, using Mother’s dishwashing liquid to wash my bicycle, or riding it beyond the areas I had been told to remain in, I always seemed to push the boundaries when on that bicycle. It was no trick bike, not made for jumping curbs and popping wheelies, but of course I had to try it. That usually resulted in a blown tire and ruined inner tube, which meant I had to wait until my uncle had time to come over and fix it before I could ride again.
Each time I violated Momma’s rules for me on that bicycle, I was punished for what felt like an eternity, but usually meant no bike riding for one to two weeks. That bicycle taught me about taking risks, calculating the cost of each one I was willing to take, and deciding if it was worth it. Most of the time, I decided it was absolutely worth it, even knowing I’d be punished. I imagine Momma’s frustration having to keep telling me the same things over and over again only to have me repeat the offense. However, I am grateful that she did not give up on me. I graduated from that bicycle years later and got a ten speed. I was grateful for the upgrade, but it didn’t bring me nearly as much joy as my banana seat blue bike. By then, I’d gotten into sports and my main objective for going outside was to play basketball.
I knew just how much joy that bicycle meant to me when I arrived home one weekend from college and saw that my bike was being ridden by a neighborhood kid. Momma had placed it at the community dumpster, and some lucky kid was trying to ride it. My heart sank. How could she? No I couldn’t ride it anymore, but I loved my bike! It brought me such joy, and even just looking at it made me reflect on memories of riding it down the hill with the wind blowing in my face feeling free and fearless. As I walked in the house, I approached Momma and said, “My bike. You threw it away!” She replied, “You can’t ride that bike anymore. It was time.”
What I learned from this experience is that one of life’s greatest gifts is joy, and our greatest opportunity lies in sharing that joy with others. Seeing another kid trying to ride that bike should have made me happy that day, but I was too young and inexperienced to understand that. Now I get it. Joy is meant to be had and to be given away. Feeling joy is great, but sharing it is even better.
As of late, I’ve been trying to think about what makes me happy and what brings me joy. I want to make sure I am clear about those things because only then can I live my life accordingly. Now I know that joy isn’t derived from possession of material things, but from an experience. It comes from what we’re doing and who we are doing it with, not from what we have or possess. I can’t help but think that we’d all be better people and friends if we could answer that question clearly: What brings you joy? Because then we’d be much more deliberate and intentional with our time and our connections. In this season of life, I’m on a quest to discover that for myself with such precise clarity that I can articulate it without pause. I’m not there yet, but I’m definitely closer than I’ve ever been before.
Y’all be easy,