My bike was stolen last Saturday night. It was part my fault, part my husband’s fault, and 100% the fault of the person who stole it. Left with a lock, a front wheel, and a heavy heart, I did the only thing I could think of: I decided to leave the thief a little note.
Okay, it was a big note. Armed with yellow paint, I crafted an 8 foot by 3 foot cardboard sign and hung it across the entire front of my landlord’s Carroll Gardens brownstone (with his permission). It said:
To the person who stole my bicycle
I hope you need it more than I do.
It was $200 used, and I need it to get to work. I can’t afford another one.
Next time, steal a hipster’s Peugeot.
Or not steal! PS: Bring it back.
I felt a little foolish writing the sign. After all, if I had spent nearly as much time double securing my bicycle, I may not be in the situation. But I knew other people who had bicycles stolen in the neighborhood, and the least I could do was acknowledge what had happened. I left it up for seven days.
On Wednesday evening, I got the first knock on my door. Standing outside were two young African-American men, maybe 24 an 16. One of them was carrying a blue teenage-boy sized mountain bicycle.
“Are you the one who got your bike stolen?” the youth named Michael asked. “I had that happen to me as well, and I had this bike lying around, so I figured you might be able to use it.”
I was flustered by the offer and tried to deflect, saying I really appreciated it, but wasn’t sure if I’d be able to use it. What was clear, however, was that it wasn’t about the bicycle, it was about their honest desire to help. I accepted, touched by the humanity of the gesture.
A snowstorm came the next day, and my husband suggested I take the sign down. I refused – it was stolen on the weekend, so it would stay up until the weekend.
On Saturday morning, I got a second buzz on the intercom. On my doorstep was a petite, middle-aged Hispanic woman in a pink GAP sweatshirt and leggings. She said she lived in Jersey but worked in the neighborhood, and made her husband drive twice around the block so she could fully read my sign. When she read that I needed it to get to work, she made him stop the car to see if there was anything she could do.
“What kind of bicycle do you need?” she asked. “I don’t know much about bicycles, but if I find one I’ll bring it to you.”
I told her that I had signed up for the CitiBike program as a stop-gap, and since it was $16.99/month, I could use that for now. I told her what mattered most was that she stopped. I thanked her again.
“Also – I don’t know about bikes, but I looked up that Peugeot you wrote about – and that’s an expensive bike!” she exclaimed. I laughed.
“Yes it is!” I agreed.
Then she leaned in and gave me a big hug.
I was invigorated. This sign was changing things. So much humanity was pouring out from such a simple gesture of opening myself up to the universe.
The buzzer rang again the moment I got upstairs.
“Take down the sign, Amanda!” my husband yelled after me as I turned to run back down the stairs.
An energetic, salt-and-pepper haired Caucasian was eyeing my sign.
“Is this your sign?” he asked. ” I passed it on the way to my studio, and took a picture, but the more I thought about it the more I thought I should do something.”
“That’s very kind of you,” I said, and explained how I’d also received a kids bike and a hug, and what mattered most was that people cared.
“Well I posted a picture on Instagram, and a few of us started talking, and I was wondering if I could buy the sign off of you for…” he pointed to the yellow-letters written on my sign “…for $200?”
I laughed out loud and told him that if he indeed did that I would most definitely buy a new (used) bicycle with his money.
“I’m an art dealer,” he explained, “and there’s definitely some craftsmanship in this sign.”
I told him it was his, and he could do whatever he liked with it from that point on. As we pulled the cardboard away from it’s string attachments, he said that there was quite an Instagram conversation going about it, and a few people had chipped in onto help him buy it – including Robert Young, and antiques dealer in the UK.
The #KarmaCycle had gone global. It was quite a morning. First of all, I had $200 in cash which I actually needed if I’d every be able to afford a new bicycle. But I was also part of a wave of humanity that felt beautiful and real and inspiring. I realized I didn’t want it to just stop with me.
I went up the street to Court Cycles, the local bicycle store run by JoAnne Nicolosi, a female mechanic and Carroll Gardens small business owner since 1987. I told her what happened, and asked if she could help me fix up the kid’s bicycle that Michael gave me and help find it a home.
So that’s what we’re doing. In exchange for fixing it up, I helped set her up on social media accounts so we could share the story of the #KarmaCycle, and maybe keep it going. She’s now on Instagram and Twitter @courtcycles, and we’re going to set the bicycle outside her store until the end of March. Any local who needs a bike should share a good deed they’ve done or been inspired by with #KarmaCycle and they’ll be in the running.
PS – Are you into paying kindness forward? That’s what #realtinytrumpet is all about, making a little noise for good in a very loud world. Share your tiny acts of kindness with me on Instagram or Twitter and let’s keep the inspiration flowing.