Fridays: a story of service

Fridays: a story of service

By Sarah Lounsbury

Over the past two months, I have been working with Cascade Bicycle Club through AmeriCorps as a Youth Programs Assistant. One of my responsibilities in this position involves delivering and picking up fleets of bikes in elementary schools throughout Seattle and other outer lying districts.

The bikes are used in physical education classes to teach children how to ride a bike and also to develop skills to ride safely on the roads. Every Friday I enter a different school, but there’s always this same sense of familiarity. I walk into the building, head to the main office and then meander down the hallway to the gymnasium. It’s strangely calming to enter the quiet chaos of an elementary school. Echoing murmurs can be heard as I walk swiftly past classrooms. I glance at children crouched over desks, scribbling away at schoolwork. I wonder how much the curriculum varies between schools. I hope these children are becoming inspired, encouraged to create, innovate and collaborate with each other.

Colorful posters and student art line hallways.

At one school, I came across this poster that said, “The more you read, the more you know. The more you know, the smarter you grow. The smarter you grow, the stronger your voice when speaking your mind or making a choice.” 

Sometimes I have to go outside through the playground during recess to make it to the gymnasium. I watch as children gather on the blacktop, playing tetherball, basketball and those imaginary kind of games. It’s outdoor chaos, frenetic but friendly amongst classmates, and it wields at the sound of a summoning whistle.

I walk into the gymnasium, a place where students find refuge from the routine and rote memorization of the regular classroom. I often enter physical education classes and watch students warm-up. They dance, run and are free to move around. I have seen children juggling, unicycling and simply smiling.

I bring bikes to these children and am always taken aback by their excitement.

“The bikes! The bikes!” The kids exclaim.

Many of the physical education teachers tell me that it’s their students’ favorite unit all year. Other teachers tell me how many students learned how to ride – six years old, eight years old, eleven years old – all ages. These are the kids whose parents may have given up on trying to teach their children how to ride a bike or just didn’t have the opportunity to.

Learning how to ride a bike is best learned by hopping on, developing your balance and pedaling forward. There’s a thrill in riding a bike for the first time, in realizing how far you can travel, even if it’s just the distance of the blacktop.

Once done with my job at each school, I walk back across the black top or through the hallway and back to the van. As I climb into the passenger seat, I reflect on the impact a bicycle can have on a child, a teacher, a school and a community. I get lost in my thoughts as my driver heads to the next school. We park in front, and I walk in the front door.

“I’m here to deliver the bikes.”

That’s what Fridays are for.

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