Franklin Avenue was sunny, warm, and quiet on Sunday afternoon when I stopped by our shop for a few things to stock the repair trailer for another busy week of neighborhood repair events in the evenings. As I pulled away, I saw 5 kids riding bikes down from Valley Terrace. By the time I looped around the block to head back up Franklin, they were stopped outside of the shop, looking in the windows.
I stopped my truck and asked if they needed something fixed. Five voices spoke at once, some talking louder to try to be first, and in all the words, I heard a familiar one, “brakes”. There’s always a tool bag in the truck, and I had some time, so we set up shop on the sidewalk.
Our sidewalk workshop turned into a fun kind of noisy - listening to the chatter as they switched through all kinds of topics, describing their bike work, and visiting with my dog who was along for the ride. They wanted to help with the bike work, but didn't want to miss anything the others were talking about, so they bounced around a lot. We'd fix part of one bike, and ask for a test ride. A fast ride up the street and back, and a progress report. Twenty minutes later, brakes and other things were working well again.
After the tools were packed, we chatted for a few minutes. We talked about how someone had done something nice for them, and how they could in turn do something nice for someone else. We call that Paying It Forward. It was fun to listen to the ideas ("I can clean my grandma's whole house today" - doubtful, but fun to hear). They seemed to catch onto the idea quickly, and all promised to do something. Ideally, they'll remember.
Some days it doesn’t take anything more than a tool bag, a tailgate and twenty minutes to make a difference.
Lee Montanari, Executive Director