My rock-climbing buddy, Tom, called yesterday afternoon. "I'm coming over to pick you up," he said. "I'm taking you shopping for a new mountain bike."
"I can't afford a new mountain bike right now," I said.
"I know," he replied. "Don't worry. My treat." I thought we were gonna look at some used (cheap) bikes. Not so. He took me to a store.
Tom is not rich. On the way over, he told me a story, how many years ago, while in his early 20's, his landlord informed him waterbeds were not allowed, and that he'd have to get rid of his waterbed.
"I don't have the money to buy a new bed," he complained. "You should have told me before I moved in."
One of Tom's neighbors overheard the conversation. The next day Tom found $350 cash in his mailbox. (Back when $350 was a lot of money.) Tom confronted the man (a Muslim, working 3 jobs) and asked if the money was from him. "It's from whoever you *want* it to be from," the man replied.
"I'll repay you," Tom said, "with interest." The Muslim explained how it was against his religion to make money off money. He told Tom he should simply "pass it on," and that he'd know when the time was right.
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Tom also explained how he'd just been written up by a manager at work for doing an exceptional job on a recent project, and that he would be receiving a $500 bonus in his next paycheck (less taxes, or ~$350).
Anyway, long story short, I got a new bike sitting in the garage. Tom even bought me a pair of mountain bike shoes ($80), and an assortment of tools.
Plus other goodies he said I needed, like gloves ($25), chain lube, spare tubes, and even socks. The total came to $638. Normally, it would've been much more, but they were having an end-of-season sale.
While we were shopping at the store, some of Tom's rock-climbing buddies called and asked if they could contribute to the cause ($100), which allowed us to get a better bike. People I barely know. I was overwhelmed. Almost cried. "Don't cry," Tom said, "or I'll start."
Had no idea this was gonna happen. On the contrary, I had been preparing for the worse. (Hoping for the best, but preparing for the worse.) So this caught me totally off-guard. Tom has been thru similar challenges, so he understands the need to get out and blow off steam.
At the end of our ride, Tom said, "You're a real mountain biker now. You cleaned a long, steep hill. You prefer single-track to fire road. You went over the handle bars, and you're bleeding. Welcome to the club."
On our way home, I thanked him from the bottom of my heart. I actually felt like a different person. "How can I ever repay you?" I asked. "You can't," he said. "When the time is right, you'll know when to pass it on." The whole thing kinda blows my mind (in a good way). Seems like a dream.
And it all started with a Muslim. I think that's the most intesting part, since we haven't heard many good things about Muslims recently. The moral of the story (if there is one) is that there are good people and bad people in *all* religions.
On a related note, I weighed myself this morning. I'm lighter than I've been in 10 years. Not sure if it's due to the mountain biking or the emotional stress. Trying hard not to lose weight. Forcing myself to eat, even when I have no appetite. Two bites fill me up.
Tom and his (athletic) wife are on their way over to pick me up .. for another ride today .. to the Santiago Truck Trail, and down the Luge.