I was picking up my bike from the repair shop and there came to mind something that Breda had said in the Irish Chaplaincy Summer Retreat, when speaking of her work with people in prison: “If you can be kind, be kind.”
I’d been folding up my commuter bike to store it in the shed, as it seemed I wouldn’t be needing it again for some time, and something snapped so that the handlebars kept falling down! It seemed at first that I’d need to buy a new bike, and then I thought, “No, maybe Chris can do something with it; it’s worth a try at any rate.” Chris runs the bike shop in Canterbury that I’ve been going to for many years. I bought bikes there for all three of my children and one for myself, and I’ve always gone there for repairs. And when doing a repair, they had often done a little extra something for free.
The shop has been through a few incarnations over the years: ‘Tibbs Cycles’, ‘Canterbury Cycle Centre’, ‘Canterbury Cycle Lab’. Then with the onset of Covid, Chris decided to stop selling bikes, which he told me wasn’t making any money, and to concentrate on repairs: which presumably does make money! The shop has duly been reborn as ‘Bicycle Repairs- Canterbury’, and like many things these days (going to the gym; even attending Mass in some places!) you can’t just turn up; you have to book on-line.
I booked my slot and took my ‘Dahon’ into Chris and he said they might be able to fix it. And fix it they did, just by gluing together a plastic thing that had snapped and re-inserting it in the correct place. I was really relieved I wouldn’t have the expense and the hassle of getting a replacement bike and asked Chris how much I owed him. “That’s alright,” he said, “it was only a small job.” I was so happy to be on the receiving end of that little act of kindness, and almost danced out of the shop. And I sort of wondered how I could be kind, in turn, to somebody that day. For kindness really does beget kindness.
As well as Breda’s comment, I recalled an interesting recent incident when we were having a new freezer delivered. I got chatting to the two young guys who carried it in, and one of them explained to me, rather apologetically, that they couldn’t take the packaging away. “Oh, not to worry,” I said, “I wasn’t expecting that.” His colleagues spotted my Ovation guitar that happened to be sitting in the corner of the room. “That’s beautiful,” he remarked. I said he was welcome to have a go, and ended up telling the story of how a complete stranger had given it to me twenty-five years before and how I’d always felt fairly free about sharing it, and how it had served me and others well. “The gift that keeps on giving,” he said. And then the first guy said, “We’re going to take the packaging away for you; it’s nice when people appreciate us.” I was so touched.
On the same day that I was picking up my bike from the shop I listened to a phone message Fiona had sent me from a man in prison who said, “I can’t ever thank you all enough for what you’ve done for me throughout my sentence.” He’s been in prison for most of his life and has decided now that he wants our help to get out and stay out; including referral to drug rehab. As with many people coming out of prison, he has a mountain to climb but the fact that he is asking for help is a hopeful sign. And we’ll just never know where an act of kindness may lead.