By Chris Story
His beard was white with time, and his face rutted like the well-traveled roads of his life. The cold weather didn’t seem to faze him as he rode his bike about town; as though the December winds were as welcome as the warm breeze of a July afternoon.
His bicycle was a Schwinn Hornet, with the classic big fenders and lines of a forgotten style; from a time when things, life and people moved a little slower. He rode the bike rain or shine, and always with a ready smile and gentle wave.
I know what bike specifically he rode, because I ordered it for him. He’d come into the hardware store where I worked, looking over the catalog with me as though he were a 12-year-old reviewing the new December edition of the Sears and Roebuck catalog. He’d look at the different models; some with baskets and others with the big, bold pieces of hardware that, by today’s standards, only serve to slow you down.
Once he finally made up his mind which bike he wanted, he would come back each week, asking to see the picture again. Then, he would take out his billfold and count his money. Each week, he got closer to the total amount he needed. I’ll never forget when he came to the counter, slapped me on the back and said, “Order it my boy, order it!”
He then revealed the exact amount of cash for the purchase — including tax — right down to the penny. I scooped up the money, rang it into the till and we exchanged smiles as I wrote from memory the item number of the bike onto the special order form.
That new bike meant the world to my friend. For him, it wasn’t just a bike — it was a time machine. That bike took him back to a place in his life when he was much younger; when he had more road in front of him than behind. That bike represented a kind of freedom that many of us long for as we hurry about in our cars, frustrated by the guy in front of you who is taking too long to turn.
One day, another friend shared something with me.
“That poor old man on the bike, “ she said, “some days I just wish the Lord would call him home.”
To which I replied, “Are you kidding me? He’s the happiest guy I know.”
You get to define and decide what makes you happy. Whatever level of joy you get out of life is nobody’s business but yours. Having said that, think of the joy my friend received from working toward, saving up for and buying that slice of a forgotten time in his long adventure on this planet.
You were born with a purpose. Your job here is to discover, uncover and utilize it. What is it you want to do, learn, give or create? Get started, don’t wait until you have time; make time. There is only today; yesterday is gone and tomorrow is only a promise.
Unwrap your gift today and start giving it away. My friend taught me a lesson that I’ll take with me always: Live life to the fullest, and never take even the littlest of things for granted.
Chris Story is a lifelong Alaskan, as well as broker and owner of Story Real Estate. He is also host of “Alaska Matters Radio,” heard Tuesdays from 12:30-1:30 p.m. on KGTL.
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