Taking the Hell out of Hell’s Angels.
If you have bikers in your community, you can relate to that sense of anxiety you might feel when you see them riding in tandem down one of your city streets. If they are part of a “gang”, they might be wearing the uniform of a biker with the black leather, the emblems of skulls, tattoos and other things that can be pretty frightening as they ride along on their motorcycles. The image of bikers being dangerous and maybe destructive goes back a long way. You may not know that the origin of motorcycle clubs comes from the post World War II time frame. Many veterans who came back from that conflict with battle related issues found solace in being with others like them doing some “male bonding”. They found the motorcycle and in particular the Harley Davidson motorcycle and that gave them a shared interest that eventually developed into what we eventually recognize as a motorcycle gang.
Now the history of motorcycle gangs is not always pretty. It is true that one of the big motorcycle gangs in the fifties and the sixties were the infamous Hell’s Angels. And those original members of that club were pretty dangerous individuals. But there was a code of ethics to being a biker because they shared the battle experience. They were and are tremendously loyal to each other.
And it may surprise you to know that bikers as a rule are quite patriotic and can be outspoken in defense of the country and its interests. But as the years have gone by, even though it doesn’t seem that the image of the motorcycle gang member has changed, how they view themselves and how they want to make their contribution so society has changed a great deal. The truth is that many bikers have a strong sense of social consciousness, environmental awareness and they are often the first to respond to the needs of others in times of trouble. Bikers express these values through dozens of community service projects each year. But these are not citizens who seek the limelight or the praise of others. They pitch in and help out with service projects that they feel passionate about in their own quiet and efficient way. And they almost never receive the recognition they deserve for the good things they do in society. Each year around Thanksgiving, there is a tradition in many cities around the country for the local biker community to organize a “toy run”. As with anything else they do, the biker community makes this event all their own. Often they will gather on a particular Sunday morning with their toys ready to go.
The toy of choice is a large stuffed animal or doll that can be strapped proudly to the front of the motorcycle as the parade begins. At a specified time the biker caravan departs riding in tandem in a long procession that can be miles long to take those toys to the point of distribution to give them to the poor or those who cannot afford such things for Christmas. This kind of dedication to community service is a deep part of the ethical values that is what it means to be a part of the biker community. Throughout the year, bikers will perform hundreds of small acts of community service that never get reported or become part of an organized effort. Whether it is stopping to help out those in need on the highway or performing clean up or improvements in the nation’s parks, the biker community shows its commitment to the environment and to the community in dozens of quiet ways. So when you see those menacing looking bikers on your city streets, maybe you can smile and give them a friendly wave. Because while they often look tough and menacing, these are fellow citizens who care deeply about each other and about the communities in which they live. And just knowing that can go a long way to take the “hell” out of the Hell’s Angels for all of us. PPPPP 686 .