Time Out For Digging Out Newsletter

The Lucky Bike

August 2008

“We need to find someone to restore your old bicycle, I announced one day when Bill and I were cleaning out the garage. “I don't want to take it to Chicago looking like that.

Bill nodded as I pointed in the direction of his priceless childhood treasure. It was as beautiful as the day I first saw it emerge from the cobwebbed shadows of an old shed on his father's farm.

“We're taking this home with us, Bill announced as he proudly stood beside it.

“You want to put that in our van,” I challenged.

Of course, he replied, as if putting the rusted relic in our vehicle was the most natural thing in the world.

From the excitement on Bill's face, it was clear that what he saw when he looked at the bike and what I saw were two entirely different things. What I saw was a corroded John Deere green frame held up by two flat tires that had seen better decades. Maybe it was the carpeted banana seat, but I couldn't see why anyone would treat this broken down bicycle like a beautiful family heirloom.

If I had to pick a professional to shed some light on Bill’s behavior, it would be organizing consultant Peter Walsh who, in his book It’s All Too Much, had this to say on the subject: “When we have trouble letting go of an object, it’s usually the memory, rather than the item itself, that we are frightened of losing.”[i]

For Bill, that memory was winning the 1976 bike race in his home town. At just eight years old, he looked much too small to ride the Western Flyer that his grandfather had fixed up for him to ride.

“Everyone laughed because they thought the bike was too big for me,” Bill reminisced as the girls played a few feet away. “It took me a while to get going but, once I did I rolled passed everyone except the leader.”

At this point, Katie and Hollie put down their dolls and gave Bill their undivided attention.

“Then on the final turn before the finish line,” Bill continued, “Brian's chain came off and I raced past him to victory.”

“It's a lucky bike!” Katie exclaimed. “How much did you win?”

“One dollar,” Bill proudly announced.

The sensible side of me wanted to challenge spending money to fix up a bike that had earned Bill so little. The sentimental side chose to ignore this thought and replace it with a new one.

What’s worth keeping is worth keeping in good condition, I decided as I agreed to bring back the Lucky Bike if Bill promised to find someone to restore it.

Without knowing it, I had reached the same conclusion as Peter Walsh when he said: “If you value an item, you need to show it the honor and respect it deserves. Otherwise, it has no place in your home.”[ii]

An Organizing Tip Or Two

Tips for Organizing Your Home from Peter Walsh

Verses To Heed

On Using Resources Wisely:

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

 (Luke 12:48b)

On the Ultimate Relationship:

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”

(Revelation 3:20)

More on Revelation 3:20

A Book To Read

I enjoyed reading this book. It has a lot to offer the organizationally challenged.

It's All Too Much by Peter Walsh
Click on the image above to view a description of this book.


Bill agreed with me (and Peter) when he accepted my terms and loaded the bicycle into our van. Now, one year after bringing the bike home with us, I felt a sense of urgency as the neglected piece of nostalgia still leaned against an outside wall of our garage—with less than three months until our relocation to Illinois, we were running out of time.

Bill must have felt the same way because, before the week was over, he located a shop that specialized in restoring antique bicycles and entrusted it to their care.

“Do you like this seat?” Bill asked a few weeks later.

“Don’t you want another banana seat?” I asked.

“That’s not the seat that it came with,” Bill explained. “Grandpa put the banana seat on when he fixed it up for me.”

“Whose bike was it before you got it?”

“My dad had it when he was a boy.”

Hearing that the bicycle had been in the family since the late 1940s made me glad that I had agreed to bring it back to Lincoln. It also made me want to find out more about my husband’s childhood treasure.

“The bike was a new Western Flyer from the Gambles Store,” Bill’s dad explained after I e-mailed him for more information. “I wanted to ride real bad, but it was just too big and too heavy.”

“Dad took the seat off and put two gunny sacks around where the seat was,” he added. “I still remember Mom helping me on and going down the hill east in our yard,” he added. “I think I had to fall to get off.”

The more I learned about its history, the more excited I was for the repair shop to say that it was finished. When the day finally arrived, our whole family went to pick it up.

“We’re going to get the lucky bike!” Katie exclaimed as she climbed into the van.

At eight-years-old, Katie was the same age that Bill was when he won the race in 1976. She would be the third generation to use the Western Flyer. Like Katie’s father and grandfather when they first tried to climb on the bike, her legs were not long enough to reach the ground. Still, she insisted on riding it as Bill pushed it out of the store.

Who knew that it had this much potential? I thought to myself as Bill rolled the Lucky Bike—and Katie—toward our van. The rusty green frame had been sanded down and painted a vibrant red to match the 1965 Chevy pickup that Bill restored before graduating from high school.

Seeing how amazing the bike looked made me glad that we went to the effort to repair it. It also made me curious: How many relationships are like this bicycle when it was alone and in need of attention?

Immediately after asking myself this question, I pictured a nursing home full of senior citizens and wondered how many would go another week without a visitor. My next mental images were of parents waiting to hear from children who long ago left the nest and couples who have drifted apart after work and other priorities came between them.

All of us at one point or another have had to decide whether to invest in or divest ourselves of a relationship. Looking back at the months leading up to our move made me realize that I was guilty of the latter as I put my current life on hold to prepare for a new one. From the moment we learned that our relocation was approved by Bill’s company, I stopped volunteering at church, helping with school functions, and organizing nights out with other moms.

As I suspected, selling our current home and finding a new one consumed most of my time. Still, despite the busyness, I eventually came to realize that I couldn’t let go of my friends any more than Bill could let go of his bike. Even if I saw them once a year or once every five years, I had to do my part to hold on.

Relationships worth keeping are worth keeping in good condition. This was my mantra as I collected e-mail addresses and researched the best way to keep in touch with family and friends after the move.

My love for the people we were leaving behind also prompted me to plan our own going away party. It’s easy to think that recognizing a relationship is the other person’s responsibility; especially when we are the ones who are celebrating a special birthday or—in our case—moving away. While it’s natural to want people to do their part to wish us well and keep in touch after we are gone, this goes against the ways of Jesus who “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”[iii]

It also goes against the reality that many will be unwilling or unable to live up to our expectations. I learned this the hard way after the move when friends I thought I would always stay close to began to drift away. And for the first time I felt like I was the rusty bicycle, waiting for someone to invest in a relationship with me.

Knowing how it felt to wait for someone to reach out to me raised a question: Does God feel the same way as He waits for us to dust off a bible or come to Him in prayer?

As I think of all the times I kept God waiting, it's tempting to conclude that my relationship with Him is like the bicycle when I thought it was beyond repair. Instead, I remember the friends who did keep in touch after the move and how, whenever they e-mailed or came to visit, it was like a fresh coat of paint had been applied to our relationship.

Seeing how a minimal investment of time can do wonders to restore an object or a friendship leads me to believe that God will take us back, no matter how long we let the cobwebs grow on our relationship. The cobwebs grew on Bill's bike for more than two decades before we brought it back to Lincoln to fix up. And although we could probably sell it online for more than it cost to restore it, I doubt we ever will. Instead, the lucky bike will move with us wherever we go.

Peter Walsh said it best when he wrote: “Your home is a metaphor for your life—it represents who you are and what you value.”[iv] I value the Lucky Bike, not just because Bill used it to win a race or because I found a photo of Bill's dad riding it when he was a boy. I treasure the antique because it reminds me that sometimes we have to be pulled away from the busyness of life to find time for the basics as we see that people, like possessions, are worth the investment ... and the best things in life are not for sale.

Quotes to Grow On

“What’s worth keeping is worth keeping in good condition.”

“The value you say an item holds for you must be reflected in the place you give that item in your life, otherwise your words have no meaning and the object is little more than clutter.”

Peter Walsh, It's All Too Much, p. 37.

[i] Peter Walsh, It’s All Too Much, p. 135

[ii] Peter Walsh, It’s All Too Much, p. 36

[iii] Matthew 20:28b

[iv] Peter Walsh, It’s All Too Much, p. 13