So it was this Christmas at my parish, when Mariana, who works with immigrant families, set up a “giving tree” with 100 tags on its verdant branches. Each tag represented a gift for an immigrant child. People gladly took the tags, returning to the rectory with the designated gifts, all brightly wrapped. But two of these gifts could not be wrapped, and didn’t need to be wrapped. On Christmas Eve two shiny bikes appeared in the rectory for needy children, taking me back to fifth grade when my parents gave me a brand-new red bike with a banana seat. My newfound two-wheeled independence enabled me to decline the yellow school bus, and many days I would even pedal home for lunch with Mom and Dad rather than deal with schoolyard bullies during school lunches. That red banana seat bike has never left my heart (a gift from my beloved father and mother), and I’ve been riding bikes ever since. Fifteen years ago Modesto parishioners bought me a red carbon fiber racing bike, and five years ago Star of the Sea parishioners bought me a black carbon fiber mountain bike. I ride every day, both on bicycles for exercise and on motorcycles for transportation, and it all began with that shiny new bike from Mom and Dad in 1973.
God bless the bigger people in my parish who gave gifts to smaller people, simply because they could.