Each time I drove my daughter to school in the morning, we both noticed her. With her french braided hair divided into two sections, she steadied the handlebars of her pink bicycle walking it down the road toward the high school instead of riding on the seat and peddling.
Sitting in the basket of her bike was a bright pick helmet and a math book, and her backpack rested neatly on her shoulders. My daughter and I giggled each time we saw the bicycle pusher wondering each time why she chose to walk alongside of the bike as opposed to riding it, which resulted in a much slower and tedious alternative.
“Want to be five dollars richer?” I asked my daughter. “How?” she queried. “If you see that girl at school, I will give you five dollars if you ask her why she walks her bike instead of riding it.” Because money is best friends with my daughter she immediately accepted the dare. “I think she’s in my P.E. class. I’ll ask her 2nd period.”
I guessed that because the girl didn’t like wearing a bike helmet to high school she opted to walk, but why not just walk? Why drag the bicycle along too?
Later that afternoon my daughter texted me, “You owe me 5 bucks!” Despite my professional texting skills, I decided to call my daughter on her phone. “Did you ask her?” I knew that she did, but didn’t want to jump to conclusions. “Yep! She told me that she walks her bike to school because her seat is too high.” This made no immediate sense. Could her parents not lower the seat for her? Was she borrowing the bike from her six foot seven inch tall sister? We concluded that the bicycle walker was too embarrassed to give us the real reason why she pushes her bike to school each day.
Some days we would see the same girl, pushing her bike like normal, or walking, but never riding the bike. On one of these days the rain was coming down hard. As we approached the half way point to school, we saw her, exposed to the rain with no umbrella. I braked, turning the steering wheel of the car toward the curb and told my daughter to holler out the window and ask the soggy stranger if she wanted a ride. Visibly embarrassed by the task and reluctant, my daughter slid down the window of the car and shouted, “Do you want a ride?” After recognizing my daughter’s face, the girl nodded, and ran to the side of the car.
Shelbie entered, shut the door, and immediately commented on the warmth of the car. After some introductions and small talk, we drove the rest of the way to school.
The next day my daughter and I saw her walking and I stopped the car to let her inside. She thanked me. The day after that we saw her again, and stopped once more. Each time we stopped, we chatted and gathered more information about Shelbie, but the bike question never arose.
When I finally discovered how close Shelbie lived to our house I offered her a ride every day. If she was able to walk to our house, I would drive her, the rest of the way to school. Shelbie began showing up early to our house, and I began making her lunches each morning. Her home life was shaky but her joy never gave a clue.
Shelbie continues to show up each morning and fetches drinks for me from the refrigerator, while I offer her a bag filled with food for the day. She appreciates the ride to school, and we enjoy helping her. We have morning conversations around four other children and plastic baggies of food. She is now a part of our morning routine.
I never consider my act of kindness toward Shelbie something of merit. I sensed a need and acted. Perhaps that is the difference, I acted. Most times, admittedly, I don’t act.
I don’t know what will become of our relationship and time together, but for now, as I scroll “Shelbie” across a brown bag and fill it generously with food for the day, I smile, and wonder if Shelbie likes hanging out with us just as much as we enjoy her.
“. . . I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40