As a kid that old adage that “it is better to give than to receive” sounded like just plain crazy talk. The older I get the more sense that expression begins to make.
My family has started playing it safe by getting each other gifts that come directly off each others lists. Christmas morning is great. Everybody gets exactly what they want. But it also cuts out the magic of an unexpected holiday surprise.
I have been working for the past year on a bicycle for wheelchairs. The whole idea was to create something different for the disabled and the elderly that also involves the people that love and care for them; their caregivers. The bike’s unique design replaces the front wheel of a bicycle with a two-wheeled platform able to accommodate a wheelchair and its occupant. With CAREBIKE, everyone can now get outdoors to enjoy the simple pleasures of a bike ride.
The past few months have been a blur of long days and nights trying to find a market for CAREBIKE. With all the phone calls, presentations, demonstrations, marketing material development, blogging and tweeting, I’m constantly talking, riding or writing. Usually its some combination of the three. With so many hats and only one head, there’s a chance to overlook whatever else might be going on.
A few days before Christmas, I had a CAREBIKE at a local nursing home, giving some residents a ride around the holiday-decorated grounds. The activity director was already interested in our bike. Between rides I was running through my bullet-points to an administrator who kept popping out the front door keeping an eye on things. After a while I turned the bike over to an aide so he could get a feel for how easy CAREBIKE operates. As we were getting our next rider situated, I was told that ‘Miss M’lynn’ would be turning 99 years old in a few days.
They pedaled off and headed out on the sidewalk. I stood under the decked out portico, all lights, garland and piped in Christmas music, and watched as they made their way around the corner. I opened the front door looking around for another crack at the administrator. I got back outside just in time to watch Miss M’lynn and the aide headed in on the end of their ride.
Miss M’lynn was all smiles as they came back into view. She was grinning from ear-to-ear as the bike rolled to a stop right by the front door. She looked as if she had enjoyed herself more than everyone else. I asked her what she thought but she couldn’t hear well enough to respond. The smile was still there even after she was back in her wheelchair and they began to roll her inside.
There were a couple of other riders that day before we finished up. I made another pitch to the decision makers before loading up the CAREBIKE and heading home.
It might have been the Christmas preparations at the nursing home. Or it might have been all the decorations I saw driving through town. But the Christmas spirit came over me right there in the van. My thoughts drifted away from planning my next business move to wondering about the joy I’d just seen on Miss M’lynn’s face. It might be that all those smiles where about her reliving bicycle rides from a lifetime ago. It was also possible that an entire century of Christmases Past came back to her all at once. Whatever the reason, one thing is for certain; I would have never imagined that someone that elderly could express that much happiness.
I realized what my CAREBIKE and I had just accomplished. Miss M’lynn probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to reconnect with that flood of memories without my bike and I. I came to think of her CAREBIKE ride as my Christmas present to her. With her reaction, I understood that the joy in giving is really the same thing as the joy felt in receiving. And when the whole thing just seems to fall right out of the sky and into your lap, there’s the extra delight of the unexpected holiday surprise.