Our time at the Community Bike Shop has been nothing less than influential during this semester. It all begins with “community,” as the name says, where we have learned and strived to build community there by working in partnership with the neighborhood members, from and people from across Omaha to build a foundation of togetherness. We have also discovered that community extends to the fact that the shop is actually a physical house as well, with a shopkeeper living upstairs and its identity as a home away from home for some of the kids. The service aspect is met because we’re serving the community by being there as a helping hand, while at the same time it comes full circle when they serve us and give us the satisfaction of knowing our presence is meaningful as they laugh and play, many times without a second glance at any bike in there! Our main tangible service aspect is fulfilled by providing others with a viable transportation option and giving those with lesser opportunities a way of going out and being able to hold down a job. Doing this while educating new buyers on maintenance techniques and keeping the shop open for anyone is quite comparable to “teaching a man to fish,” instead of “giving a man a fish” as the bike shop can provide for a lifetime. With their rule of converting volunteer hours to shop credit, the bike shop also goes a long way in relating to attendees the dignity of labor and the value of hard work.
The community bike shop is like a “rallying point:” it’s not just for transportation, but a place where neighborhood kids can take their mind off things and cultivate a happiness for life. Here, they’re part of a safe haven and involved in meaningful projects. It has been refreshing to notice all of the relationships there of the adults as role models and second family, and the children making friends just through the bike shop. It’s always exhilarating to see the children riding bikes after they fixed them and to see the array of people we were able to serve at the shop too. It’s also fun to see the shopkeepers donate their time and energy to run the shop and turn it into a place of caring for others and teaching others a meaningful life.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the Shop, it’s that everyone is there for a common goal: there’s no judgment, each attendee is present to work hard and learn, and volunteers donate effort to others when needed as well. In regards to judgment and seeing the presence of everyone there, we’ve contemplated the spiritual side at our service site as well. Jesus can be witnessed in those whom we serve and all within the shop’s walls. By serving them we serve Him, especially as we follow his parable and “teach a man to fish.” Although there is no visible sign of the CBPO being foundationally built upon Christianity or the Jesuit aspects of love and giving, it inherently is because of its ability to provide for others in a unique way that that no other service site can fulfill.
The first two weeks we were so lost on how to fix bikes, from the handlebars and brakes to chains and tires, we felt clueless, but then we were able to expand our knowledge with hands-on activities and implement them to helping the attendees. Ed’s favorite moment was a time when he was able to find happiness after helping a child accomplish a satisfactory job and enough work to earn their bike. One of Derek’s best memories includes the aspect of service that goes the way of the server, where they actually end up serving themselves and spiritually growing through the meaningful conversations and actions that take place during service. Toni enjoys the times at the Shop when she can take a break from fixing a bike and take the time to talk with the kids, especially the youngest ones, and bring a smile or laugh to their face.