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The Best $400 We Spent This Month

April 30th, 2009 by Alison · 3 Comments · community, money, transportation

It’s the last day of the month, a good day to look at household finances and where money was well spent and less well spent. You know me; I embrace thrift.

I continued my theme of drinking less alcohol, including in social settings where ‘everyone’ is drinking, and it’s been wonderful. It saves money but just as much, I like the increased alertness and energy that not drinking gives me.

We spent a good deal on the trip to California we’re starting tomorrow to visit family and friends. I see that as an excellent use of money — my parents are elderly and frail, and every moment I can spend with them at this point is golden. And we’re staying with friends for part of the week-long trip, which isn’t just thrifty but builds community (we like to help out with child-care, dog-walking and gardening).

The big discretionary expense of April, though, was a rambunctious, nine-person shopping trip to Fred Meyer this past Saturday. Thor and I spent $400 on bicycles, helmets and locks for the four children of a Somalian family here in Portland. They immigrated last year and the parents are just starting to learn English. My friend Colleen Kaleda set it up (she tutors Isha, the mother, through the African Women’s Coalition).

They were excited and so were we: their first bicycles! We all milled around in a happy hubbub, adults working to get the helmets fitted, the children test-driving bicycles up and down the aisles, energetic consultations in two languages: “A key, or combination, which is better?”.  It felt like Christmas in April for all of us, I think. Eventually every child had a bicycle and helmet that fit, and the van was loaded for the homeward journey. Back at their apartment building, I indulged in my specialty: picking children up and swinging them around me in a circle (one at a time). The thank-you’s, smiles and hugs were a joy.

Of course the family has no car. Nobody yet knows how to drive, and Isha has not yet even ridden the bus, despite living on a frequent bus-line. This family walks to get places. While bicycles to most Americans mean recreation, to this family they mean transportation.

The children aren’t just looking for fun, though fun is happening, too. They need a way to travel beyond walking distance, and interact with their community. Bicycles are their empowerment. Bikes are the right-sized technology for the job at hand.

I was grateful to Colleen for creating this opportunity. Nothing else that Thor and I could do with $400 could have given as much satisfaction as this did. My take-away: some purchases make more difference than others, and the joy lies in the ones that make the difference.

If you’re in the Portland area and want to donate a bike you don’t need so it will land with someone who needs it, consider the Community Cycling Center.

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3 Comments so far ↓

  • STL Mom

    What a great way to spend money!
    My parents live in a community with lots of Somali immigrants. Both of my parents give weekly English lessons, and they paid for some of the kids they know to go to a day camp last summer. They also fixed up my old mountain bike, which had been stored in their garage for years, and gave it to one of the Somali teenagers.
    Now I’m feeling inspired to locate some people in need in my own community. All the fun of shopping with no guilt - sounds good to me!

  • Deb

    Alison, that made a few tears of joy roll down my face. *awesome*, just absolutely awesome!

  • Never teh Bride

    You are officially awesome!

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