Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Today I had to run an errand to a place about 3 miles from home. The weather finally gave us a break from 55°F and rainy; the sun shone, puffy clouds floated across the sky, and people started emerging from their cocoons. For a moment I thought of driving my errand — it was to a car dealership to get touch-up paint — but I decided, naturally, to run my errand by bike. I have the red rental bike set up for comfortable short-distance normal-clothes riding, and this was the perfect opportunity to use it.
As I rode there, I sat up and enjoyed the feel of the sun on my skin, the wind in my face, the chirp of birds… Along the way, I saw a young couple, dressed to the nines as if for a formal dance, posing for pictures in front of their car. As I rode by, a woman I assume was the mother tried to pull them into one more picture, while the couple tried to get into the car. The mother was exuberantly exclaiming, “This is a very special evening!” while other family members standing nearby cried, “They have to go!” in tones I thought were reserved for movies.
When I arrived at the car dealership, a suited and tied young man asked, “Can I help you?” I indicated my bike and said, “Can I trade this thing in?” and he, hardly missing a beat, said “Sure, that plus a lot of money,” as he held the service entrance door for me. I parked my bike inside the service waiting area, and had no trouble finding a spot. The touch-up paint cost an arm and a leg, considering the microscopic volume we received. It did match the car, though, and I have protected the metal that had started to show where the bike rack rubs on the back.
On the way home with my tiny container of more-precious-than-gold (although gold closed at $1,219.10 per ounce on Friday, so maybe that’s a slight overstatement. But not much.) paint, I came upon a lemonade stand that had sprung up since I’d ridden by 15 minutes earlier. One kid had dressed up all in yellow and waved a yellow sign that, logically, read “LEMONADE!” The other kid manned the booth, which bore another sign informing me that I could exchange $0.25 for one glass of lemonade. A quick mental inventory informed me that I had a quarter, so I pulled over. I remember how excited I felt when adults, especially strangers, bought lemonade from my stands; now I consider it my adult responsibility to stop at every kid’s lemonade stand I encounter.
So I duly obtained my cup of lemonade and learned that I had received a blend of regular and pink (explaining the extremely watered-down pink look), but that it was from a mix (I’m guessing Minute Maid; it was better than Country Time and did appear to have lemon bits in it) not from fresh lemons. They then said that the one kid was wearing every yellow thing they had, and that seemed an appropriate way to attract customers to a lemonade stand. As we talked and I drank my lemonade, another adult with maroon hair pulled up and parked. She, too, bought a lemonade and we had a bit of a conversation. I rode off feeling a happy glow unrelated to the cool, not-too-bad lemonade I’d purchased.
To top it off, as I rode into our neighborhood, some kids were drawing on the road with chalk as their parents chatted nearby. I cruised by very slowly and stopped to talk with them, too. I learned that the kid was drawing a rocket ship with a bridge to the astronaut’s planet. Dad helped quite a bit with the astronauts, but the bridge and planet were definitely the son’s work. I said hi to all the other adults and walked the last half-block home.
Can you see why I love bicycling? In a car, none of those experiences would have happened. Yes, I would have gotten my expensive paint sooner. But I would have missed the romantic evening getaway those young people were having; the oh-so-snappy repertoire with the car salesman; the lemonade stand; and the neighborhood good-weather-chatting. In short, I would have completely missed out on the community experiences. Community relationships make life meaningful.
I think most people don’t even realize what they’re missing when they retreat into their insulated, isolated wheeled metal shells. Walking, biking, taking public transit — in addition to encouraging a healthier, more active lifestyle (here, here, and here, for starters) and reducing our oil dependence, these modes of transportation slow us down, force us to experience the world around us, elevate us from mere spectators to actors. I hope that next time you have a short errand to run, you will consider building the community and enhancing your quality of life by leaving the car at home. Take my word for it: You won’t regret the decision.