Culley's bike looks kind of like this but with white handlebars and a white seat. He misses it. (Photo via Haro …This morning, while sifting through the daily roster of news stories about solar-powered bikinis, Kardashian lawsuits, and global economic doom, I stumbled on a headline that stopped me dead in my tracks.
"PLEASE RETURN MY STOLEN DIRT BIKE"
The Albert Lea Tribune, a small Minnesota newspaper, had featured a letter to the editor that put every other news story to shame. They graciously gave me permission to reprint the letter in full:
Hello, my name is Culley Larson, and I am 10 years old and live in Albert Lea. This past Saturday someone stole my BMX bike out of my parents' garage. I love this town, and I am sad that people steal other kids' bikes. This is something I do not understand.
I am writing this letter to ask for your help. If you have kids, look to see if you have a bike at your house that does not belong to you. Parents, please ask your kids if any of their friends have a new bike lately? If you do not have kids, be on a lookout for anyone who has gotten a new bike the past couple of days. If you see the bike, call the police. If you have the bike, please bring it back.
I am willing to use some of my own money that I have saved as a reward to get my bike back. I know other kids get their bikes stolen. I have read it myself in the newspaper. I am hoping my letter will not only help me, but maybe help other kids also get their bikes back. I hope 10 other kids also get their bikes back. If they do we can have a celebration and call it "get your bike back day." It would be the best day ever!
A kid getting their bike stolen is like a grown up getting their car stolen. My bike is a Haro Pro Race bike with a black frame and white seat and white handle bars. My parents take me to Mankato every Wednesday to race on a dirt trail. This bike is very specific to the sport and has special tires. This is my summer sport, and I cannot race the track on my legs. I need my bike.
I have said a little prayer for my bike. I hope God is listening. I also asked God to help someone to make the right decision. I love my God, I love my family, I love my bike.
To state the obvious: Culley Larson is a boy genius. He also reminded me for three minutes what it's like to be a kid. In a world of adult problems, it can feel like nobody cares about the little things or the little people. Everyone's gotten a bike stolen once, and if it happened when you were a kid, you know how much it sucks. You lose your freedom, your mobility, your summer plans, your childhood identity and most of all your faith that other people won't steal your favorite thing in the world. I think "get your bike back day" is brilliant idea: it's a way to remind kids that we're listening to them, and remind ourselves that some problems can be fixed.
I contacted Tim Engstrom, the managing editor of the Albert Lea Tribune about Culley's letter. He had a similar reaction when he received the letter, which is why he printed it at the top of the paper's opinion page today. "At first you think it's an ordinary bike being stolen and then you realize this is the kid's passion- his parents take him every Wednesday about an hour from home to ride this bike in a certain area. As a fellow bicyclist, I could relate to the letter," says Engstrom.
Engstrom had gotten a call from Culley's mom earlier in the week to make sure her son's letter would be taken seriously. "She said it was really important to him," he says. "We don't have much of a crime rate here. Generally you can leave your door unlocked and people don't worry too much, but even in the best towns people are gonna be silly and steal a bike."
And when it happens it's a bummer, especially when people don't take it seriously. Thankfully, the town of Albert Lea does. And so does the Internet. Please help find Culley's bike, or the missing bike of any kid you know and love, or the missing bike in your heart you thought nobody would ever care about because it wasn't a car. It's better than a car, it's a bike.