#KarmaCycle: The Story of A Stolen Bike, an Art Dealer, and a Sign

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.

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Claudette Chenevert

    Your story just came up on my feed and was intrigued to read about your misadventure, and the connection with the art dealer. It’s terrible about your bike being stolen, yet what I was most inspired by your post was the willingness of strangers helping out others.
    Stories like these give me hope in humanity and the power of giving and compassion.
    Good luck with getting a new (used) bike.

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  2. Elizabeth Rose

    Hi Amanda, I loved your post about your bike. My comment is to ask why you didn’t identify your race in the piece? You mention the races of all your visitors but not your own. For me, the piece would have been even stronger if you had self-identified as white. Thanks for the writing!

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      Ace

      Thanks for this comment. All I can say is I consciously wrestled with the decision to include race identifications, and chose to include it in the end because I wanted people to realize that a wide spectrum of people stopped to help me out. We often imagine dogooders in our own image, and I wanted readers to be clear that a diverse cross-section of humans made the decision to help. I didn’t have much more information on each person, as we only spoke for a few moments, or I likely would have included those other tidbets instead to show the spectrum of folks.

      1. Elizabeth Rose

        I assumed that the author was white because they didn’t mention their race. This is an example of the white advantage: The race of an author is taken to be white if not delineated. As white people work to break down the advantages of being white in order to level the playing field it seems important to me to identify my race as a writer. This removes the taken-for-granted assumption of the white majority voice. What do you think?

  3. Ken Smith

    I read this in the WaPo. It is a well written blog story about a stolen bike, strangers with big hearts and community in a disparate, Rudepublican, T-rump addled world. Cheers, Amanda!

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  4. Jeffrey Juchau MD

    Very touched by your story. Glad to know human decency and hope is still alive and well, even in the big cities. We see this all the time in our little neighboorhood in Utah. Keep the stories coming, I like your style!

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  5. gabrielle

    As San Francisco Bay Area people who have lost bicycles to thieves, we understand your anger and frustration. Your painted sign inspired human beings to recognize you in your moment of pissed-off-ness. In this great big world of anonymity, you were heard and seen. Had you not sold the sign for $200, the loss still might have been worth the experience.

  6. Eileen F

    Lovely responses to your sign. But stealing is stealing, no matter who it is from, even a Peugeot owner. This 61 year old “hipster” was given her (inexpensive) Peugeot bicycle by her parents when she turned 21. I am still riding it, and would be heartbroken if it was stolen.

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  7. Elaine Green

    Love your blog/story on bike seen in Post. Love your attitude…and hope awesome connections continue! You bring me hope on days when news is bleak. More kind people than selfish people– I know that but forget. I will follow u. Ride on….EG

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  8. helen perry

    Well done all (apart from the thief, although without him peoples goodness would not have been revealed)

  9. KB

    Thank you for this amazing post. It makes me realize that a lot of small acts can help offset the crap Trump is trying to reach down everybody’s throats. Today I had a young man stop by my house. He was very polite and trying to raise money for his mentoring program. I made a donation and as I did, he said, “you are the first person to donate”. I shook his hand and said, “This program is important. I wish you the best”. What he didn’t know is that I visit the prison. I see people who have made mistakes and are trying to recover. If my donation helps even one person avoid bad choices, it was worth indeed. Keep in blogging!!

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      Ace

      Good job! Keep the goodwill flowing. It’s always nice to get that first donation as a canvasser – I’ve been there!

  10. Kim

    Hi! This is amazing – i saw it in the Washington post. I can’t help but think the real heroes of the story are the 2 guys who offered their own personal bike and their names aren’t included in the article – it would be amazing if their generosity could be recognized. They really deserve it. I live in bedstuy and have had my bike stolen before – it sucks. (I’ve also never commented on a blog ever in my life and I’m sure you don’t need random peeps advice, it just seems like they should get their karma too by being recognized) Cool story – thanks for sharing!

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      Ace

      I agree – they were real heros! All I know is one guy’s name was Michael, and I’ve been hoping he gets wind of this so he stops by again and I can fill him on what’s happened.

  11. A Dude

    I write a blog called http://www.ADudeAbikes.com on WordPress and a friend sent me this. It warmed my heart. If you don’t mind maybe I’ll share the story and of course credit you and include the link. Maybe some more good will come from this and one of my 156 followers will benefit from it. I know I did. Thank you!

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