A Medford mom is back on the road thanks to random acts of kindness from a couple of local women.
Jessica Black, a disabled Army veteran and mother of two, relies on her bike for transportation. When it was stolen last week, she felt helpless about finding a new means of getting her family from place to place.
The bike helps her get her two children, one of whom is on the autism spectrum, back and forth to preschool. She also used the bike for running errands and for lulling her babies to sleep for naps and at bedtime.
Last Wednesday, Black pulled up to her apartment off Stevens Street and had to run inside for a quick “potty break” for one of her kids.
“It wasn’t even 10 minutes, if that. I had just got done picking up my kids from school, and we had biked home. It takes me about an hour to pick up my kids and come back home,” Black said.
“I bike about 20 miles a week just to get them to and from where they need to go. One of my kids really, really needed to use the restroom, so I ran inside my apartment. I was coming right back outside so I could take the bike onto the patio, where I could lock everything up.”
To her dismay, her bike, trailer and toolbox of bike supplies were gone.
“In a matter of a few minutes it was just gone,” Black said. There’s a security guard at the school across the street from where I live, but he was on the other side of the apartments when it disappeared.”
After a mention of the theft on social media, other local mothers sympathetic to wrangling toddlers and being stranded without transportation were willing to help Black in her time of need.
“I filed a police report and hoped an officer would come by or that it would turn up. Medford was super swamped, so I just filed online. It was Wednesday around 5:30 in the afternoon,” she said. “I was basically just stuck. It was pretty depressing.”
Black said she lives on a fixed income and receives Section 8 housing assistance. The bike had been provided to her by the VA “Dom” in White City two years ago.
Black served in the Army from 2008-2010 and was honorably discharged after shattering both of her ankles when she fell off a tower. Doctors prefer she not walk everywhere or pedal a bike, she noted, but biking is the lesser of two evils. Having never learned to drive, her long-term plans include driving lessons and a used car.
“The hardest thing was that we bike to everything we do,” she said. “My son has high-functioning autism, and riding in the trailer always calmed him down. It was soothing for him to be able to go for a ride.”
Within a day of the theft, Medford resident Mary Froehlich offered up a trailer that was in better shape than Black’s old one.
Gayle Dixon of Medford had a nearly new bike sitting in her garage. Dixon said helping Black with the bike was a reminder of how something small for one person can mean a great deal to another.
“It had just been sitting around. I tried to sell it at a yard sale, and nobody bought it, so I think it was meant for her to have it,” Dixon said. “I had bought it brand new. I couldn’t keep my balance, so I went from that to a three-wheel bike, which I turned around and got rid of, too. I don’t even think I had a mile on it.”
Black was moved by the kindness of strangers.
“I was super surprised people would help me find a bike and trailer. I can’t believe it happened so quickly. Literally the day after it was stolen they told me I was going to get a whole new setup. It was a huge relief,” said Black. “I was pretty freaked out about having to walk everywhere with two little ones.”
Dixon said she figured the community was just doing what it was supposed to do.
“I think it’s awesome that the community comes together on stuff like this. It says something about us when we care about one another. That was her only means to get around, and she’s got the two little ones. I know how I feel when I don’t have my vehicle. It had to have been a horrible feeling for her,” she said.
“Life is what it is, and you do what you’ve got to do, which is what she was doing. The world could use a whole lot more understanding and more kindness. Just a smile or a good morning or a hello will really brighten somebody’s day,” Dixon added.
“Sometimes a person’s misfortune isn’t due to their own choices. Instead of relying on somebody to drive her around, she was making her own way. Everyone needs a little help from time to time.”
Compassion Highway Project is raising money to help replace Black’s tools, including her pump and a bike lock. To contribute, see www.compassionhighwayproject.org.
Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org.