For the tenth year, at 8:30 in the morning on Sunday, December 16, 2012, Jack Hairston III, affectionately known as “Jack the Bike Man”, opened the large overhead door of his warehouse to welcome a large crowd of families. They had all been gathered there before sunrise for a chance to receive one of 1000 new or refurbished children’s bicycles. Jack’s bicycle charity for kids has given the gift of “freedom”, which only a bike can give to so many needy children in our community.
As we gathered to help Jack distribute his bikes, those new to this tradition tried to make sense of the chaos of people gathered outside Jack’s nondescript warehouse in West Palm Beach. Families and their young children dutifully formed a line and received a numbered ticket which they could redeem for a bicycle; indeed, some families received as many as six tickets! The parents or older siblings clutch these tickets in their hands, some for a couple of hours, until they reached the front of the line. There, they were met by volunteers who fitted the children with bicycle helmets, mandatory for children in Florida. Once fitted, they proceeded to the next line, where they were greeted by Santa and had their pictures taken. After that, additional volunteers ushered them through finding just the right bike. This process was at times difficult. In fact, at times it was nothing more than controlled chaos as volunteers handed small bikes over the heads of families anxiously awaiting this moment. Finally, the moment of truth, as a glowing smile appeared on the face of a young boy or girl as they sat on their new bicycle. On this day, Jack and his volunteers would experience at least 750 of these magical moments, one for each bike given away.
As we collected our thoughts at the end of the day, we all experienced the true meaning of giving – making a direct impact on our community for those less fortunate. In a world in which we know all too well that tragedy and sadness can strike without warning, Jack took the sadness away and gave us all a new view on what is really important.