I'm mowing our front lawn late one afternoon, and I notice a young boy struggling with a small bicycle. He's on the sidewalk in front of our neighbor's place to the east. The details escape me; suddenly, he's walking with the bike past our place. He's halfway past the house on the other side of us, and, just as suddenly, he's struggling again, bending over at the waist, walking stiffly with and apparently looking at the bike.
My memory flashes back to walking a bike, sort of like that, trying to get a chain that had left the front sprocket to latch back onto it. His chain and sprocket situation seem to be OK, however.
I shut the mower off, walk toward him ( he’s maybe 10, 12 years old; I dunno ), asking, “Hey, I’m not a mechanic, but do you need some help, there?”
A strong, “Yes,” he says, surprising me.
He has a plastic grocery bag, with groceries in it, that has torn badly. Using both arms, he's been trying to keep the groceries in the bag and walk with his bicycle at the same time. It is not going well. “So, all you need is a new bag?”
“This one has a big hole ...”
“Let’s see the size of it.” It's a typically sized plastic grocery bag. “I can help. I’ll get you another,” I say, “wait here.” I walk to the house for another bag. I get three of them, thinking the odd-color one is larger than the other two, but realize as I get outside that it probably isn’t.
He tells me he lives just down the street, around the corner of the block we're standing on. He's a neighborhood kid, and I suddenly feel kind of bad that I don’t recognize him.
He takes the odd color bag and we begin putting his groceries into it. He has three half gallon jugs … juice and milk, I think, and two bags of bread. We're further squashing the already squashed bread.
“Why don’t you put just the jugs in that bag, leave the bread and come back for it?” I suggest. “The bread’s getting terribly squashed in there”
“Hmm, good idea,” he says, and I take the two breads.
“When you come back, if I’m mowing out front, I’ll have these on the front steps; if I’m not here, I’ll be in back, and I’ll take the breads with me.”
“OK,” he says; “thanks very much. Thanks very much.”
He is back in what seems like four or five seconds, walking on the sidewalk. He puts his hand up to the middle of his chest, palm outward, and waves shyly as he approaches the middle of our neighbor’s property.
“Where’s your bike?” I ask.
“Too much trouble with the food,” he replies. We walk to the front steps and load the bread into the plastic bag he has. “Thanks very much,” he says again.
“You’re very welcome; we all get by with a little help from our friends,” I respond, smiling. He doesn't seem to recognize the philosophical jewel I have just given him.
He walks back the way he had come. I hear him say, “Thanks; thank you very much. Thanks.” I restart my lawn mower.
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