31. Give ’em the Knuckles

31. Give ’em the Knuckles

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Runners

Give ’em the Knuckles

It’s a great feeling when someone like Bernard Hinault comes up to you on the podium to say “Welcome to the club.”
 ~Lance Armstrong

Remember that scene from Forrest Gump when he’s trying to find a seat on the bus and at each row someone says “seat’s taken” or “you can’t sit here.” It’s a pretty extreme example of how not to treat an outsider, but it is probably still pretty uncomfortable to watch for just about everyone, because we’ve all been there. Maybe we haven’t been openly rejected like that, but certainly we’ve been in that spot where you’re new to a club or a town or a group or something, and unless you’re completely cold-blooded, you’ve always got at least a little desire to fit in somewhere, find where you belong. Sometimes we don’t make the effort with the new guy because we don’t have the time or energy to do the whole “welcome to the club, my name is so-and-so, did you find everything alright.…” But it doesn’t have to be that formal.

We learned that when we joined Juventus, our current bike club. We were new, nervous, excited about taking a chance at leaving the comfort of our old club. There were elite athletes around; people who knew real racing, how to dress, what to ride, how to win. We were just recreational riders and it was intimidating at first.

Now, right from the start we got a lot of help. We were fully welcomed by the established riders and coaches. I remember getting advice from one of the fastest racers around right before a big race, even though he had to prepare for his own race and take care of the rest of the team, and it meant a lot. Another coach invited us to train with the juniors when it fit our schedule better, even though he was busy getting the kids going. All of these gestures made a huge difference for us, but one really stuck out for us because it was at the very beginning, even though it was something pretty small.

At training in the winter, in the very beginning, there was always this one fast guy who trained with the elites. He knew everyone and was part of the main group. After each hard workout, he’d saunter over to his buddies and stick out his fist and they’d clank their knuckles on his, as if to say, “nice work.” They “got the knuckles” is what we started calling it. Now, I don’t need someone else’s approval to feel good: I get what I want out of things, and we didn’t view him as some sort of hero or anything, just a fast dude in the club, but we couldn’t help wondering if we’d ever be part of the group like that.

Then one day, my wife came home from the workout. It had been a hard one and she was spent. She hadn’t felt very strong and she might normally have been a bit down, but she was pumped. She was grinning from ear to ear. “So how’d it go?” I asked.

“I got the knuckles tonight,” she said.

Then one night I got them. No grand gesture, no formal welcome, not even a word or anything. Just suddenly one night the fist was pointed at me. It made my week.

We joked about how “getting the knuckles” was some sort of secret handshake at the club and it was the only way to know you were in. We have a friend new to riding and she joined us at the club. Last week my wife came home and said, “Shauna’s pretty excited; she got the knuckles tonight.”

It really showed us how it doesn’t take a lot of time or a big formal effort to make someone’s day. So maybe next time you see someone new, maybe the new guy at work, or the new guy at your club, you don’t have to take a lot of time to make them feel welcome.

Just go over and give ’em the knuckles.

~Tim Brewster

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