It was dark but I could see there was a truck coming down our long driveway off South Road. In the back was something yellow, strapped down to both sides of the truck bed. I saw this unfold from my bedroom window upstairs. As it got closer I realized it was a motorcycle. An old, motorcross style dirt bike, Yamaha YZ 100 to be exact. It was a 2-stroke engine, which mattered a great deal to me because it meant it was both fast AND loud, the kind of motorcycle you could hear from a mile away.
I had wanted a motorcycle for a long time but I was too small for a real one. I had a mini-bike but … you know, a real motorcycle is in a league of its own. It slowly dawned on me as it descended our hilly driveway and made the turn toward our garage that this might be my dream come true. It was. Mom and Dad had given me the one gift that I could only dream about, but never imagined getting for real.
It was too much motorcycle for me. We had to lower the front shocks all the way down to their lowest setting just so my feet could barely touch the ground, and even then only by the tips of my toes. And it was fast, lightening fast. Like “get out from under you if you’re not holding on tight enough” fast.
Some would later tell me I was spoiled. At the time, all I knew was that I was smack in the middle of the happiest childhood imaginable. I rode that motorcycle as much as possible and, as the years wore on, I did grow into it. I found some abandoned railroad tracks behind my dad’s body shop and literally rode it all the way to another state—from Ohio to Indiana! It took me all day and it was seriously dangerous but I made it. I crossed several trestles—like bridges for trains—many that were a hundred feet tall. Or at least they seemed that tall! I ran out of gas and had to push it to a gas station spending my last $4.00 to fill it up and make it back home. I had adventures and did stunts on that bike that would have made my mom faint if she actually saw me!
My parents are what you might call the generous types. They practiced generosity better than anyone I have ever known. Of course as kids, my sister and I got to be the recipients of that. But as we grew, we realized that it wasn’t just us. They gave constantly and widely to many churches, non-profits, and individuals. I’m sure I don’t even know the extent of it, but I do know that they started with very little and were generous then. And through much sweat and tears they ended up building several businesses and owning several investment properties along the way and always, always, always the proceeds and benefits were made available to their ever widening circle of friends.
I remember when they first purchased a Cadillac. My dad is in the car business and, at the time, the Cadillac was the car to have. He was doing well and he decided that to represent his growing company well he would buy a Caddy. But as I would soon learn was typical of him, the first thing he did with it was loan it to some friends who were taking a long trip and needed a reliable car! They literally only drove it for a few days before loaning it out so another family would have a reliable car for vacation.
As I reflected on this month’s theme of “Gift” I realized I had received so many great gifts over the years from my parents. But it dawned on me that the best gift my parents ever gave me was passing on the ability, freedom and desire to give. An inherited generosity. My hope in this season is that I will not just give good gifts, but inspire my kids to give well, just as my parents did for me.
Photo (Flickr CC) by Geraint Otis Warlow