Opinion: Good deed starts wheels turning, brightens dayAn elementary student trudges slowly to his school, walking alongside his bicycle, finally stopping to rest for a moment on the sidewalk in front of the flagpole. The building custodian, unfolding the American flag in preparation for its quick ascent to the top, notices his mild distress and steps over to talk to him. Before he even arrives, the problem is clear. His bike chain has fallen off.
By: Joe Graves, Mitchell superintendent
An elementary student trudges slowly to his school, walking alongside his bicycle, finally stopping to rest for a moment on the sidewalk in front of the flagpole. The building custodian, unfolding the American flag in preparation for its quick ascent to the top, notices his mild distress and steps over to talk to him. Before he even arrives, the problem is clear. His bike chain has fallen off.
“Hold on a minute, Toby (a pseudonym), while I get my tools and we’ll get that fixed up for you,” says the custodian. Within the next few minutes, the chain is back on and Toby is heading to class. The custodian can see, however, that the chain is only one of many problems for the bike, which has just plain seen too many summers, curb jumps, and wheelies. He shakes his head.
A parent who has just dropped off his own child at school stops to talk to the custodian. He has seen the whole, simple episode. He asks the custodian why he is shaking his head after such a good deed. The custodian shares the bike’s condition with the interested parent who immediately offers to purchase a new bike for the young man. The custodian shares the offer with the building principal.
The building principal sits down with the student for a chat. They talk about bikes and what kind he likes. They talk about brand names and models and the best color for a bike. The young man has many opinions on bicycles.
Two days later, the bike, which had been on its last wheels, is nowhere to be seen. In its place, the student is riding his new bike to school, even though the weather is turning colder. The new chain stays in place even as the bike flies over curbs and pops wheelie after wheelie. In a peculiar coincidence, it is the same brand, model and color that the student identified as the best kind of bike.
The story, not including the student’s name, circulates a bit as one of those happy tales that people like to share, kind of the opposite of rumors.
The maintenance men who work with the custodian hear the story of what their colleague did to help the student. They are a hardworking bunch who push snow in the wee hours of the morning, work on rooftop heaters and air conditioners on the hottest day of summer and the coldest days of winter, and generally fix whatever is broken.
This somewhat gruff bunch promptly takes up a collection and sends their friend and his wife out for dinner, on them. The next day, instead of hearing about one problem after another, the financial shortfalls in public education, the dwindling work ethic and lack of respect among youth, and the rest of the litany of woes school administrators have been pelted with since Socrates first complained to his principal, I hear a lovely story about a group of people, some connected and some unconnected, who each took a few minutes and a few dollars and made the world a brighter place for someone else.
And you wonder why people choose to work in education?