By Louis De Lauro
I hate driving to school in the morning.
I love teaching school, but the traffic in New Jersey makes my 35-60 minute commute difficult. One day I will drive 37 minutes, the next day 57 minutes. Every morning is a challenge—most mornings are a headache.
Driving to school has always brought me great stress. The first 10 years of commuting, nothing relieved my stress; not music or talk radio or even books on CD.
The second 10 years of commuting became easier. Why? Because I saw the man on the bike.
I’m not sure how many years I saw him on the bike, but I must have seen him 500 times. Seeing the man on the bike each day made my commute better. In fact, seeing him made everything better.
He was always riding towards me to his job at the Pathmark grocery store in Middlesex. His daily commute on a bike just seemed a bit more difficult than mine. He rode his bike in good and bad weather. I remember him riding in the rain, while holding an umbrella. He appeared to be coming from Dunellen, the town in which I teach.
His passion for riding his bike impressed me daily. He made commuting look easy.
I visited that Pathmark on occasion after work. I bumped into the man a few times and he was always very friendly to me. He said hi and smiled. He had no clue he was my morning inspiration each day. I never told him. It would have felt odd to tell him.
Pathmark closed down almost two years ago.
My commutes are more difficult now because I miss the man on the bike.
I am going to retire from teaching this spring after 25 wonderful years. I am going to seek the man on the bike and give him this story. I will also buy him the finest lunch I can afford, and I will ask him if he needs a new bike. If he does, I will raise the money to buy him a new bike. I definitely need to tell him how much he has meant to me over the years.
I need to brighten his day.
I need to tell him I noticed him.
And he meant something to me.
I wonder if the other commuters in cars noticed him and felt inspired, too?
This man on the bike truly brightened so many of my days.
Look for the man on the bike in your life.
He might be an actual guy on a bike.
Or an old woman with a cane and a smile.
Or a toddler who wants to high five you.
Or a co-worker who brought you a tasty treat.
Or a friend who comforts you.
Appreciate this person.
Now, be this person.
I will be this person, too.
Louis De Lauro has taught elementary and middle school students for 27 years in NJ and PA. He is also a loving husband, dad, son, and friend. In April of 2017, his short story about his wife and daughter “Right from the Start” was published in “Chicken Soup for the Soul, Best Mom Ever.” Back in 2007, Louis was featured in the award-winning documentary “Juggling Life” about the charity he founded, Juggling Life Inc. The charity recruits and trains volunteers to teach juggling and chess at camps for children with cancer. In 2008, he was featured in a Star Ledger Series called “I Am New Jersey.” In 2011, Louis had four submissions published in the Pearson textbook, “Child and Adolescent Development” by Woolfolk and Perry. Louis enjoys writing about teaching, family, friendship, and Buddhism.
Editor: Alicia Wozniak
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