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Stories / Youth

A Mentor's Story

Getting Back on the Bike

It has been said that you never forget how to ride a bike.   It has also been said to never say never.

Before June of this year, I could count on one hand the number of times I rode a bike as an adult.  Incidentally, both of those times were on a tandem.  And yet, here I was living in the bicycle mecca of this country, totally and helplessly bike-illiterate.   I quite likely would have remained so if it were not for some special young girls in my life.

At Friends of the Children, I have the joy and honor of mentoring eight young ladies, each of whom are unique and amazing—and all just so happen to love riding their bikes.  So, after six years of living in Portland, I finally swallowed my pride and enrolled in a bike safety training with one of my girls at Friends of the Children.  As I suspected, it wasn’t very pretty (for me).  After an introduction to biking traffic rules, we all hopped on the awesome bikes on loan from BTA.  My hop was more of a timid/awkward wobble around the surrounding neighborhood.  It’s for the kids, I reminded myself as I pedaled forward.

Several weeks later, one of my oldest girls had the opportunity to attend our Intermediate Bike Camp.  She had mixed feelings about camp- she was part excited about riding to new places, part nervous about being with a bunch of new people (especially new boys), and part apathetic, well, because she’s just in that phase.  The first day she was fairly shy, choosing only to talk to the one other girl in the camp and a handful of other mentors.  Day by day I could see her confidence grow, not only in her ability to ride, but also in the way she carried herself, interacted with others, and how she saw herself.  A sense of adventure and confidence came alive in her that had been hiding for a while as she has been navigating this pre-teen stage.

In the short time since I’ve caught the biking bug, I have seen firsthand the effects of not only biking as one’s commute, but also of biking together in community.  There is something wonderfully empowering about experiencing a journey and knowing that all the sojourners have each others’ backs.  And to all the doubters and skeptics, I am living proof that you really don’t forget how to ride a bike.  The mystery of biking for me, like mentoring, lies less in one’s own ability (or disability), but more in a shared faith that you can do it—and that we will do it together.