Like the wheels on a bike, the wheels of justice go round and round.
Life, like biking, is about do-overs. It’s about learning from your mistakes. Last month a young man made the mistake of stealing my Sport Utility Bike in plain sight of a police officer, who promptly arrested him.
When the arresting officer asked me if I wanted to press charges, I said yes. I wanted the thief of my bike to be punished. I was angry, and scared that as a bike courier, I had nearly lost my tool of employment. Yet I also know that jail and prison ensnare millions of people in a cycle of debt and unemployment. A year of college is cheaper than a year in prison. I was of two minds when I received the subpoena to testify in general district court.
So I felt relieved when the when the Commonwealth’s Attorney asked me a couple days before the trial if I would object to a reduction from grand larceny to misdemeanor petty theft. Because the young thief had no prior arrests or convictions, I consented.
I wanted the young thief to be punished, but not at the expense of society. Nor did I want private corporations and shareholders to profit from his incarceration, at the taxpayers’ expense.
I stood in witness as the judge agreed to the plea deal and sentenced the young man to twelve months in jail, but suspended for twenty four months on the condition of good behavior. I thought it a fair sentence that incentivized the young man to learn from his mistake.
We all need opportunities to learn from our mistakes. There is no growth without error. We all stumble and fall. The brave amongst us get up and try again. The wise learn from their mistakes. The foolish repeat them.
I sincerely hope that the next two years will be an opportunity for the young man who stole my bike to learn from his mistakes and choose a more constructive career in bikes. Because I’ve got to believe that a life spent on a bike pays more than a life of stealing bikes.
Author Wesley Cheney leaves Jimmy John’s in Norfolk, Virginia for Skagway Alaska for a summer of leading bicycle tours down Alaska’s White Pass for Sockeye Cycle Co. He broadcasts his ukulele performances on Periscope.