Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Can Timmy come out and play today?

The route was simple, dart out the back door, run through my neighbors backyard, squeeze through a set of pine trees trying not to get scraped, cruise along the west side of the house, and hop onto the porch from the side. As I would stand at my childhood best friend’s front door, heart rate elevated from the trip over and in elated anticipation to begin whatever adventure lay before us for that day, I would ring the door bell only to wait as his Yorkshire terrier yelped and piddled at the door while his mother answered the door, as I exclaimed, “Can Ryan come out and play”? This was an everyday ritual for me for a good ten years or so.

This past weekend I stopped by Alan Smith’s house while I was riding by and caught a glimpse of him in the window while he was riding the trainer. I stopped in to chat for awhile and catch up as he has been drowning in higher education responsibilities lately.

He shared with me about a recent project he did for school in which he promoted healthy active lifestyles to a 4th grade class in Flint. He posed the question to the class, “Do you regularly play outside?” to which the class answered “yes”. He went on to ask, “Do you plan on playing outside for the rest of your life”? The consensus response of the class was sadly that most of them will quit playing outside around the age of 17. To this Alan replied, “Really? I’m 33 years old and I still play outside everyday with all of my friends after school”.

The class was filled with undivided intrigue and with the help of two stationary trainers equipped with power output and some Gary Fisher Precaliber 24 inch mountain bikes donated by American Cycle and Fitness Alan hosted a trainer race for the rest of their time while pitching the idea of cycling for life.

A few days later, Alan received some thank you letters in the mail from the class.

“When I was riding that bike, I felt like I was making history”

“As I stepped off the bike, my legs felt like they weighed a million pounds”

After I left Alan’s house to ride into the cold night and meet up with the Hermit-man, Alan’s story resonated in my head and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

I’ve always loved the camaraderie training and racing has to offer but I guess I’ve never really broken it down into the simple and innocent idea of playing outside with my friends. I guess when I step back and look at my life, not much has changed from when I was ten years old to now. I still go to school for nine months out of the year, I still play outside with my friends everyday, and although the price tags have increased, I still play with toys.

In an age when it almost appears as if kids don’t even get to choose what activities they’re into anymore, (i.e. Media saturated in Guitar Hero, Rock Band, Wii generated experiences, MySpace, Facebook, MTV, etc.) I think the simple idea of “playing outside” could be the best gift you can give a kid this holiday season. As the products we use in our everyday lives become more and more disposable, we should make sure our experiences do not as well.

When recently interviewing my nephew over Thanksgiving I asked him if he remembers what I bought him for his birthday this year to which he replied no. However, when asked, “do you remember when we went mountain biking together?” he replied, “How can I forget”.

Are you going to go outside and play today? You should…it’s fun!