Wednesday, December 1, 2010

On Sick Days and Neighborliness

The last week or so has looked (and felt) a lot like this:

We spent a long weekend at the coast, feasting with our extended family.  We got some lovely, if unusually windy, walks in, but spent a significant amount of time cooking, reading, and playing inside.  (The above photo was taken at the coast.  That is my dog, but sadly, not my cozy wood stove.)  When we returned to Eugene, we had one full day of good health and bicycling, and then Little and I came down with a stomach bug.


(Actually, I am pecking this out one-handed on my sofa, while Little dozes in my lap.  It was a long night.  Parenthood teaches us that we are capable of more than we thought, right?  Like hauling 130 pounds of kids and library books up a hill on a bike, or typing for long stretches with one hand and not much sleep.)

We've been inside a lot, trying to stay warm and comfortable while we fight off this bug.
Little, asleep at last
Before we ditched one of our cars, there was lots and lots of discussion about what that would mean for our family.  One concern that came up was how we would cope when someone was ill.  Would I be able to get to the store with two sick kids on a bike?  How about a doctor's office?  This week has been our first sick-day test of our new transportation setup.  What do you do when you and your littlest passenger have the flu?

I'm so happy to say that we passed this simple test.  The answer?  Stay home.  Isn't that what we should all be doing anyhow?  If I had needed to get to the doctor, I would have either loaded Little into the bike trailer or gotten a ride from a friend or neighbor.  Easy, right?

So why were we initially concerned about working out a sick-day transportation solution all those months ago?  I think it was primarily the idea that we might need to ask for help that gave us pause.  It seems to me that we are sometimes so determined to be independent and avoid inconveniencing others that we fail to give or receive the little favors that build community.  It's sometimes difficult to ask our neighbors and friends for help, but when we do, it encourages those folks to call us up and ask for help, too.

We needed a few things from the store and had our CSA pickup yesterday, and Grandma M ran both errands for us.  I could have easily called four or five other people and asked them for the same small favor.  And I hope those people would call on me in the same situation.  I didn't make anyone else sick by thinking that I should run this errand for myself.  My children and I got to rest and read rather than pile into the car and slouch around the market in a stupor.  And hopefully, I'm inviting Grandma M to think of me when she needs help sometime soon.

I love getting around by bike in part because I've met so many more of my neighbors while using this very physically open and conversational mode of transportation.  It's easy to stop and chat with folks who are working in their front gardens, or walking their kids to school, or cycling around themselves.  (And anyone out there with a family bike knows that it is one of the best ice breakers out there.  Only a very small fraction of cyclists will stop at an intersection next to us without comment.)  The fact that riding my bike may put me in a situation where I'm likely to give or receive help from others only improves that feeling of neighborliness and community.

As I was finishing this post, Bigger woke up and quietly built this cool submarine lighting system out of his headlamp and some loose bike lights.  He says it helps the submarines to navigate when sonar is not a good idea.  Does this kid have a fabulous imagination, or what?


  1. Love your post! Great portrayal of how bicycling opens the doors to building community.


  2. Thanks, Dan!

    It sounds like you are having your own winter bicycle adventures. (I just checked out your blog -- love the photo of your wife and kids on the bridge.) Good luck with your commute!