Take the time to appreciate and take in your surroundings. Don’t ignore the little white bicycles in life.
There’s a little white bicycle chained to a signpost just a block from my apartment. It wasn’t always white like this, but it was painted white for a particular reason. A pink flower protrudes from one of the spokes on the front wheel, the seat is gone, the tires are mostly flat, the chain is rusted, and the white paint is slowly chipping away.
During the last few years, I have walked past this little white bicycle more times than I can count, but I’ve never paid much attention to it because life is busy. And there’s always somewhere to go. Or something to think about. Or something to devote myself to. Or something to be outraged about.
Though a painted white bicycle with a flower in its spokes is different than what’s usually chained to signposts in New York City, this little white bicycle blended into the background of my life for many years. It was just another thing that I couldn’t possibly spend 30 seconds to consider given everything else that was happening around me.
But a few years ago, I stopped to look at the placard that was fastened above the little white bicycle. I realized this was not a bike someone forgot about that was subsequently battered by the elements through the years. This bike was intentionally left behind to serve in remembrance of a cyclist who was killed at a busy intersection not far from the Brooklyn Bridge.
And what’s even more tragic is that this particular cyclist was only a child. At the risk of sounding insensitive, I spent a little bit of time thinking about how sad this was, and then went about the rest of my day not giving the little white bicycle a second thought. And in the many years since I read the placard, I have continued to go about my life as I passed the little white bicycle almost every day.
But today, as I walked by that little white bicycle yet again, it grabbed my attention. I noticed that the placard that was once fastened above the little white bicycle has since fallen off and is nowhere to be found, but I remember that it listed the child’s name, age, and the date they sadly lost their life at this intersection just a few blocks away from the Brooklyn Bridge. And then I thought about the fact that I’ve walked past this little white bicycle so many times in the past few years and completely ignored it even after I knew the significance of it.
But today I stopped to think about that little white bicycle and its mostly flat tires and missing seat and rusted chain. And about the child who is no longer here. And about the other little white bicycles in our lives. The things we ignore because we don’t have enough emotional currency, empathy, or time to consider everything that we might encounter during a given day.
When I got home I did some research about that little white bicycle.
It turns out that it’s part of a project called Ghost Bikes. Ghost Bikes started over a decade ago in St. Louis as a way to pay a small tribute to cyclists who lost their lives. Chances are, if you live in a decent-sized city, you’ve probably walked by one of these white bicycles at some point and you may have been completely oblivious to their existence and their message just like I was.
During my research, I found myself reading about Ghost Bikes and the work they’ve been doing in cities all across the world. And then I found myself looking through a photo gallery of New York City Ghost bikes that included a short write up about each person who lost their life. As I was doing this, I started thinking about why it took me so long to consider the little white bicycle that I’ve walked by more times than I can count during the last few years.
The more I thought about it, the more it seems like I ignored it mostly because I had to. Because I had places to go and a lot of other things weighing on my mind. Because life is busy, remember?
And then I started thinking about the fact that it seems like our minds protect us from the pitfalls of thinking too much about these sad and terrible things we encounter every day. Because thinking too much about these things might be too depressing and might even start to make life seem pointless.
And then I started thinking about the craziness of the world. And the fact that everything can seem so urgent, so important, and so worthy of our time even though 95 percent of things are not urgent or important or worthy of our time. When life is accompanied by all this faux urgency and importance, life’s little white bicycles can become easy to ignore. And what’s really interesting is that ignoring life’s little white bicycles is not even a choice we actively make most of the time. It just kind of happens.
But now that I’m thinking about life’s little white bicycles, they speak to the tragedy and fragility of life. They speak to the fact that we are sometimes faced with unspeakable and terrible things but we keep going about our lives because we have don’t have any other choice.
Though we have to keep living our lives, I’m trying to remember that there are many little white bicycles in life. No matter what form they take, life’s little white bicycles exist whether or not we choose to acknowledge them and whether or not we take a moment to stop and read their placard.
Amidst the approaching holiday season and everything it entails, I’m going to try to spend a little more time considering life’s little white bicycles in whatever form I may find them. I’m going to try to spend a little more time paying attention to the things we encounter every day but don’t notice as we are whisked away by seemingly more urgent and important things. It might not be easy given how distracting and seductive life can be, but I’m going to try to consider these things because I’ve found that life’s little white bicycles are far too important to ignore.
This article was originally published on Medium. Read the original article.
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