I remember visiting my cousin in Saskatoon when I was a boy and I was always on the lookout for the coolest kid on their block. My cousin had a neighbour kid who had a banana seat bike. It was ‘rad.’ My own bike had a small seat and small handle bars, it was built for one. But my cousin’s friend had a big ol’ bike with room for several kids to sit on the long seat, a ‘sissy bar’ on the back for more kids to hang on, and huge handle bars for yet another rider. Add to this a piece of cardboard flapping in the spokes and I’m sure we were quite a sight to see and hear coming down the street. It didn’t matter how many kids tried to climb aboard, the goal was simple: good times for anyone who could find a place to hang on.
It’s been said that we do not need new arguments, we need new metaphors. This metaphor, this picture of a pile of kids on a bike, laughing and going on their next adventure, has struck a chord in me. It is a picture of a welcoming movement that is focused not on the bike, but on the fun of the journey, and on the relationships we were forging together. We knew that at some point we would make our way down to 7-11 with a hand full for nickels and dimes to buy a Slurpee, but how or when we got there was secondary to the adventures we had along the way.
The metaphor of the banana seat bike is a picture I have of our community. Author Peter Block wrote, “The essential challenge is to transform the isolation and self-interest within our communities into connectedness and caring for the whole.” Metaphors change the way we see ourselves and those around us. Like that kid who shared space on his banana seat bike for others to join, I think we are learning how to live in community here in Chestermere. How do we share what we have? How do we show true hospitality? How do we create deepening community connections? How do we create a movement of neighbourliness that fosters the Good Life for everyone in our city? These are big questions that move us from focusing just on ourselves and our own adventures, to realizing that our wellbeing is intricately and vitally connected to those around us.
What made these childhood experiences on the banana seat bike so meaningful to me was the cool kid who welcomed me aboard. It took a person to see me, come over to me, and invite me in. In our city it only takes a few people to set the tone for how we live, work, and play together. Are you one of those people who welcomes others along for the ride? What does it look like, in your context, to see others, to walk over to them, and to invite them into something bigger than both of you.
In my office hangs a vintage orange and chrome ‘Tornado’ banana seat bike. It’s a daily reminder to me that Chestermere is more than a city, it is a movement of people learning to welcome, love, and live in ways that extend beyond ourselves. The Good Life is about community and the journey we take with others. So ride on, you fit here.