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This post is dedicated to a stranger that I want to thank. I’ve had many nice strangers through the years help me when I needed help, but there’s one man in particular who is my favorite stranger. I hope these words make their way to him.

When I was twelve years old, I got a new, shiny-orange Schwinn ten-speed bike for my birthday. I remember the orange tape on the handlebars, wrapped up so perfectly, like it was yesterday. I was so happy.

One early morning just a few days later, I had gone to downtown Evanston, a few miles from my house. I thought I was so cool, riding around by myself. I was thinking of stopping at the bakery when I heard, “Stop, give us your bike.”

“Give it to us now,” another voice demanded.

Then I turned and looked over my right shoulder and I saw a group of teen boys chasing me down the block. I was scared out of my mind. I started pedaling faster and faster. They were getting closer and closer and I was losing control. I had no idea who the boys were. I just knew that this was not going to end well.

Soon after I turned a corner, I hit a crack in the sidewalk and the bike fell out from under me, smashing my knee and elbow on the concrete. I landed right next to a big man with a haircut like David Cassidy who was walking down the street. He looked very concerned. “Are you okay, are you okay?” he asked.

“They’re coming, they’re coming,” is all I could say.

I looked at my handlebars that were now twisted this way and that and at my bleeding right knee, and then I saw those boys coming around the corner right toward me. What were they going to do to me? Sweat was dripping down my chest.

But the man with the haircut like David Cassidy stayed standing right next to me as I lay holding my knees in pain on the sidewalk. His arms were boldly crossed. I realized he wasn’t afraid of those boys. They were punks to him. He stood there and glared them down.

“Let’s get out of here,” I heard one of them say when they saw the man ready to fight them if need be guarding me. The boys turned quickly to follow their leader away.

What had I done to provoke them? I wondered as I sat there with the sun slowly warming up the sidewalk. I realized that they were after me because I had something they wanted.

‘”They’re gone,” the man said, helping me up. I don’t even know if I thanked him, I was so shaken up.

I got on my bike and rode home somehow, even though my new bike with its now bent up handlebars and frame didn’t work very well anymore.

I kept looking over my shoulder the whole way. I could hear those boys running behind me, but they weren’t there.

I grew up a lot that day. All I was doing was riding my new bike, having fun. And I got hurt. Something worse could’ve happened, and would have, if it hadn’t been for that kind stranger with the haircut like David Cassidy. Thank you, wherever you are.