Bike Man

The Christmas music that played so joyfully for weeks has been silenced; the stockings that were hung carefully by the chimney with the hope that they would be filled by a joyful Santa with all the hoped-for goodies have been packed away for another year.

Published January 28, 2007 by TimesandDemocrat.com 

The Christmas music that played so joyfully for weeks has been silenced; the stockings that were hung carefully by the chimney with the hope that they would be filled by a joyful Santa with all the hoped-for goodies have been packed away for another year. The frantic pace of the season, the hustle and bustle of shopping, gift-giving, and probably returning the unsatisfactory gifts are over.

I reflected on a number of entities and sources that reminded me the holiday season is the time for miracles and generosity. Charitable deeds of generous people who participated in fundraisers or donated to their favorite charities and the people I wrote the columns about, "Secret Santa," Larry Stewart from the Kansas City suburb of Lee's Summit, Hal Taussig from the outskirts of Media, Pa., Atlanta Falcon running back Warrick Dunn and many other wealthy people across the country who got into the Christmas spirit with generous anonymous giving by writing checks, placing gold coins in their favorite charity's kettle or volunteering reminded me of their bounty. However, above all the people and their generous giving in millions, one person surpassed my expectation and stood apart from others for his outstanding contribution.

This person is 74-year-old Lewis H. Days from Durham, N.C. He is a retired maintenance man living on Social Security. Materially, Days doesn't have a lot for himself, but he has a heart of gold and he has stolen hearts of many, so I consider him wealthier.

Days is an expert on giving. He devotes his time, talent and passion to the kids in his neighborhood. Days has been restoring broken or abandoned bicycles for years, making them as good as new, and giving them to children who don't have one. He gives away up to 150 bikes each year. "If I go to a grocery store and I see a kid, and I ask him, 'do you have a bike,' and he tells me no, I say, 'Well, you got one, now.' And I give him a bicycle." He is a hero to kids in his neighborhood and nearby. One boy gave him the nickname, "Bike Man." Now many recognize him by his nickname.

Everyone from the firehouse to the sanitation department to the dog pound in town knows Bike Man. And every Christmas, he makes the rounds to firehouses, foster homes, churches and the local Boys and Girls Club.

"Any time you see the smiling face of a child that you have given a bicycle to … I'm a soft heart. It brings tears to my eyes when I see a kid enjoy something that I have worked on," Days said. However, he has gained reputation as "This Santa isn't always a softie."

He wants the children to whom he gives bikes to behave well. Before surprising the children with a bike, he watches their behavior and listens to their parents.

"I had one little girl down the street from me, she was cussing her mother. And her mother said she wasn't going to get a bicycle, and I didn't give it to her." However, Days adds, "That doesn't happen very often."

He wants to be a role model for his granddaughter, the other kids, and parents as well. He has involved his young granddaughter in this project. She does the test driving after every bike is restored.

When he was only 9, Days taught himself how to fix bikes; since then his rewards, like the bicycles, have only multiplied. "The little fellow I gave the red bicycle to — that did my heart all the good in the world. When I see a smile on their face, that's a blessing … It's a blessing that comes from up here," said Days as he pointed to the sky.

Mr. Lewis H. Days is no lesser benefactor than any philanthropic millionaire. His kind heart is his precious wealth and he's given it to all very generously to become wealthier by earning children's love and their parents' trust.

No wonder Lewis H. Days was chosen as "Person of the Week" by ABC World News.

May the Lord Almighty bless Mr. Lewis H. Days with a long, healthy life, so he can fulfill many other children's dream of having a bike.

Mandakini Hiremath is a Claflin instructor and coordinator of the university's writing center.