The Problem With Riding One's Bike to School / by Ryan Koch

My daughter and I have been riding bikes to school pretty regularly the past few weeks. It is a great way to get out and notice things and people and small changes that are often overlooked. I see neighbors walking their dog(s). I see the leaves changing, burr oak acorns falling. I see the sun coming up a bit later.

Last week I saw something fairly mundane: two kids on a bike. They were headed in the opposite direction from us. One of the young people was standing on pegs around the rear tire while the other pedaled. Was that Scott?, I wondered out loud. I turned around to see that he was looking back at me, waving. It was Scott. I returned the wave and smiled as we continued to school.

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This young man is not really named Scott, but he is a real person that I see infrequently. I have sort of watched him grow up. I took him to a Shop With A Cop event one holiday season when he was pretty young, maybe ten years ago. A police officer went around Meijer’s with us as Scott filled up a shopping cart. We started in the toys, but soon we were in the clothes section. He got a few things for himself, and then stuff for his younger brother, Daniel. He may have gotten something for his mom. We also went to the food section. I remember him being fairly serious through all of this. More sober than joyful. We didn’t talk much on the way back to his house.

Then about six years ago Scott was in our SEEDS program. He worked hard, though quietly. He earned every bit of the stipend that summer. Later, after school had resumed, his mother bragged to me about the stuff he had bought for his brother. I made a comment about his still-new-looking shoes, and he flashed a smile we saw only occasionally through the summer.

Then this summer I was working with one of our two SEEDS groups when I saw a kid on a bike, yelling in a friendly (though distracting) way at our youth. It was Daniel, Scott’s younger brother. We talked briefly. He told me he wanted to be in SEEDS next year. I said, “Let’s do it.'“ Then Daniel rode away.

Getting back to work, some of the kids wanted to know how I knew Daniel. I told them I had known him since he was a baby. He was one of my neighbors. I asked if they knew Scott.

“Yea,” one boy said.
”What’s Scott getting into these days?” I asked. I had heard that he wasn’t going to school much.
”He does drugs.”
”O; dang,” I said. Because what do you say?

And, more importantly, what do you do? It has cost me nothing to be a sort of a neighbor to this young man and his family for ten years. I can’t say that I have sacrificed any of my privilege for his well-being. I can’t say that I know any more than I did a decade ago about how to serve him, or young neighbors like him.

But there goes a kid on a bike, a kid I care about. I wave and I smile. I wish him the best, silently, and I remain hopeful. Then I return my attention to the path I am on, this beautiful sun-rising bike ride by a park. Only now I am troubled. Now I am grieved. Now I feel just slightly unbalanced on this bike.