A Thankful Bike Ride

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Thanksgiving is a time for family, and as Joe Epstein discovered, the North Bay fires have expanded the definition of family and gratitude.

For me, Thanksgiving arrived early.

I have been riding my bike for years in the Napa foothills, and often stop at the Lokoya Fire Station for a drink of water. It is staffed by local volunteer firefighters. Several years ago, I noticed an appeal taped to the firehouse window requesting financial assistance for Ken, the Assistant Fire Chief, who needed a kidney transplant and was facing a critical deadline for his surgery. At the time, I paid only passing interest in the announcement.

But that changed after the devastating fires that raged through Napa two years ago, causing monumental losses to many of my friends and neighbors. In the wake of these fires, several things became very clear. We experienced a renewed sense of community and a more acute appreciation for each other. We also became aware of the bravery and tireless work of the first responders who came to our rescue.

At that painful time, I remembered the announcement about our local assistant fire chief Ken that was pasted on the firehouse window and decided this was the best of times to help. A few calls to friends and colleagues resulted in an unbelievably generous financial response.


A few days ago, and more than two years after my appeal for help, I was riding my usual bike route and once again stopped at the Lokoya Fire Station. I was initially concerned because the flyer about Chief Ken was gone. As I worried about him, Ken drove up in his truck as if out of a Hollywood script. I recognized him from the flyer and asked, “Are you Chief Ken?" Although I had spoken with him over two years ago, I had never met him. We discussed the generosity of my friends, and a big smile came over his face. He happily proclaimed that his transplant was successful and he was doing great. Both of us were deeply thankful for this transformative experience.

This serendipitous meeting with Chief Ken two years after the trauma of the Napa fire illustrated to me the true meaning of Thanksgiving. Shared thankfulness with family, friends and neighbors, as well as those who enrich our community, can be life affirming.

I will always be thankful for this very special bike ride.

With a Perspective, I’m Joe Epstein.

Joe Epstein is a past president of the Commonwealth Club.