“We are going to bike around Midtown with a backpack full of burritos and hand them out to people on the streets who might be hungry.”
This was the prediction I gave my friend Katie about our night with the Urban Bicycle Food Ministry, and they turned out to be more or less correct. And while this is the basic premise of UBFM, it gives much more than food, it also gives hope and friendship.
There is something special about bike culture that is very approachable, and it applied to us being new to the group, and to the people we served. We spent some time talking and snacking before packing backpacks with burritos, water, granola bars, fruit snacks, and even some Halloween candy (a HUGE hit). Everyone was excited to begin their night as we assembled in the front yard and broke into teams, with each team preparing to take a different route. Katie and I joined Frank and Will, who are seasoned volunteers at UBFM.
My group took the “Madison route.” We trekked about 12 miles, but the emotional journey was much longer. Frank knew of many spots where we might encounter people who had nowhere to stay for the night, but were out on the streets. As we rode, I thought about what these people must experience on a daily basis. Tonight the weather was great, but I know that’s not always the case.
We met many people out as we were biking. Some politely refused our offerings, but others were grateful to lighten our backpacks. Everyone was nice and wished us safe travels. One man told us it was his birthday. We wished him a happy one and gave him some candy. I was grateful I was able to share his birthday with him, even if briefly, and maybe make it little brighter.
Later we met a man, who said he was apartment hunting. Frank asked him if a bike would make this process easier. The man’s face lit up with a smile when Frank promised to return in a day or two with a new bike. I hope he finds a new place soon.
That is the kind of giving that UBFM concerns itself with, small gifts that make a big difference. One fellow bicyclist referred to our gang as “pedaling disciplists,” and I think this name fits perfectly.
By Dorothy Svgdik