Every time I think about bicycles and Christmas, I think about kids.
I especially think about one very special boy who showed us all the true spirit of Christmas without even knowing he did.
This is a true story. It happened one December a few years ago when I was working as a full-time newspaper journalist in New Mexico.
The local Fraternal Order of Eagles held an annual Christmas Shopping Spree, which allowed 100 children, ages 7-12, to spend $100 apiece during a special early morning shopping trip at a local store.
After doing a story about the project, I volunteered to be one of the adults who were needed to shop one-on-one with each child.
I had no way of knowing I was about to witness ~and then be part of~ a true holiday miracle.
As I got my shopping cart that early December morning, a bright-eyed, excited 10-year-old boy named Timothy was waiting for someone to help him shop. Timothy told me he needed a winter jacket, new shoes and toys for his younger brother and baby sister.
We quickly found a warm winter jacket and some new sneakers that fit perfectly.
But just before we reached the toy aisles to look for presents for his brother and sister, Timothy stopped and stared with a grin from ear to ear.
In front of him was a shiny new bicycle with a price tag of $99.99.
“Wow! I could get that bike, couldn’t I?” Timothy asked in awe.
Knowing there were no restrictions on what each child could buy with the $100, I told him that he could buy the bike or whatever he wanted.
He stood there in front of the shiny bicycle, still grinning, as it sunk in that the bike could be his.
Then, he realized it would take all his money.
We talked about how he could definitely get the bike. However, if he got the bike, he couldn’t get his winter jacket or shoes that fit and he wouldn’t have any money left to get gifts for the rest of his family.
I didn’t pressure him either way. I gave him time to think.
Obviously struggling, for a bicycle means a lot to a child, Timothy grew quiet for several minutes.
“Well, I guess I’ll think about it some more, and then I’ll decide,” he said.
In the meantime, he decided he’d continue to shop. So we proceeded to the toy aisles, where Timothy found a colorful pop-up toy to delight his baby sister, some toys for his 9-year-old brother and a couple of small toys for himself.
There were a couple of dollars left, so Timothy proudly chose a beautiful Christmas card for his mother and father.
As the time came to approach the cashier, Timothy looked up at me with a smile and said wistfully, “Well, I think maybe I could get a bicycle another year.”
I smiled and told him I was very proud of him because I knew it was a tough decision.
What he didn’t know was that I cried as soon as I got to my car. Then I started praying through my tears that somehow that sweet, unselfish boy would get the bicycle he wanted ~and needed.
Because I believe with all my heart that every child should have a bicycle.
Later, I sat down to write about my experience volunteering with the Christmas Shopping Spree. I told the true story about Timothy and what he did.
But I didn’t mention anything about my prayers. I didn’t say anything about how every kid needs a bike. I simply told Timothy’s story.
The morning the story ran in the newspaper, I was still praying. And trying to believe.
Hoping with all my heart that somehow Timothy would get a bicycle for Christmas.
Just after 10 o’clock that morning, my home phone rang. A local woman I’d never met said, “I read your story this morning, and I want to buy that boy a bicycle.”
Tears filled my eyes as I thanked her for her generosity.
She had absolutely no way of knowing I had been secretly praying someone might give Timothy a new bicycle ~ because every boy and girl should have a bicycle ~ and because he had sacrificed his biggest wish so he could bless others.
But I also had prayed that because Timothy’s brother was just one year younger, that maybe there was a way his brother could have a bicycle, too, so he wouldn’t feel left out.
An hour after the first woman called, my prayers were answered-again.
A local man I’d never met phoned and told me that he and his wife had read my story and wanted “to buy the bicycle for that little boy.”
I explained that someone already had offered and made arrangements to buy Timothy a bicycle.
Then I decided to be bold. I get that way when I see kids in need.
I asked the man on the phone if he and his wife might consider buying Timothy’s brother a bike so each boy could have one.
“Sure, we’d love to,” he said, and I wept with joy.
The story didn’t end there. By the end of the day, thanks to more generous readers who called, we had made arrangements for new bicycles and helmets for Timothy and his brother, needed items for their baby sister, and even plenty of groceries for his whole family.
It turned out that Timothy lived in the same town as I did. So I even got to arrange a very, very special delivery on Christmas Eve day.
We called his parents ahead of time so they’d know what was happening and so the family would be home.
As a reporter, I had lots of friends at the local Fire Department. Being the great guys they are, they happily offered to help make the delivery with me ~ and make it extra special.
Timothy and his brother were playing outside in their front yard when we rolled up in the big ladder fire truck. One of the firemen and I were riding in the front bucket platform of the fire truck with both bicycles.
I will never, ever forget the look on Timothy’s face as the fire truck stopped at his house and started raising up and then lowering the platform.
First he saw me and recognized me. Then he saw the new bicycles.
His joy was unforgettable. And immeasurable. The pure, simple, exuberant joy of a boy with a new bicycle.
It still makes me smile. And yes, tear up a little bit.
In my mind’s eye, I can still see Timothy and his brother, wearing their new helmets, riding their new bicycles with such excitement through their neighborhood as we drove away that Christmas Eve day.
Even though this story happened a few years ago; in fact, Timothy would now be about 20 years old I guess; it never grows old.
To me, it’s a true story that shows that no matter who you are or what your circumstances, God still hears the quiet prayers of our heart.
Most of all, He hears the hearts of children ~ especially children who think of others first.
I can say that because I saw it firsthand. I experienced a true Christmas miracle of eternal hope, unconditional love, abundant generosity, great joy ~ and bicycle blessings.
***My greatest wish is that this story or stories like it would be repeated year after year, especially at Christmas. It takes so little to give a lot. It’s an amazing thing to be part of this type of bicycle blessing ~ or any other blessings for that matter. We can all be part of giving joy and hope to children where we live. Look around you. Find a need and fill it. Or find someone who can. Even though it’s a couple of days after Christmas, the love and generosity don’t have to end.***