We have one girl in our home who doesn’t get excited about much. She likes to draw and craft, but extracurricular activities usually find her sitting on the sidelines. In classes we are always asking her to sit up, don’t sleep, pay attention, do we need to take away your chair?
Last weekend was a different story.
As soon as the teachers rode through the gate she was calling out their names. There was no time for lunch. No time to braid hair. No time to play games. She was going to cycle.
For once, no one wanted to sit this activity out. No one complained while standing around in the 90+ degrees, waiting for her turn to ride. The girls were patient and cheered for their sisters’ successes. They all wanted to cycle.
Cycling is a way of life here in India. Men ride around the neighborhoods buying and selling everything from milk and fish to paper, plastic, and rags. There are no ice cream trucks—only ice cream cycles. We ride bicycle rickshaws to the market or a restaurant, to friends’ homes and clothing shops. Bikes are everywhere. But only two of our girls knew how to ride one.
Now, teaching one child how to ride a bike can be difficult. Teaching a whole group how to ride—especially with only one bike—is nearly impossible. Just ask the bruises on our teachers’ legs. But the girls wouldn’t have let us say no, even if we had wanted to.
The afternoon was a chorus of corrections, giggles, and near-crashes (but thankfully no injuries). Don’t pick your feet up off the pedals. No, pedal forward. Don’t lean over. Keep your hands on the handlebars. Keep your eyes open! The smiles were wide and genuine on every face as the girls wiped sweat off their faces and gripped the handles tighter.
After a couple turns, they were all starting to get the hang of pedaling, if not steering, and most only needed to be held from the back to keep from falling over. They were so excited. They wanted to take rides while we pedaled and steered. They wanted to carry each other. They wanted more turns. They would have stayed out in the yard riding back and forth and back and forth in circles for hours if we had let them. Instead, we promised to bring the cycle back next weekend and the next and the next until we have a house full of excellent cyclers. And soon—we are sure—we will. After all, cycling is a way of life.