It seems that things happen to me either in grocery stores or at convenience stores. I need to buy stock in Publix and Twice Daily.
So, I stopped to fill up a low tire on my little Solstice. You know how it goes right? The weather gets colder and the air in your tires shrinks and voila…the low tire light comes on. I’m going to put nitrogen in them this Spring…anyway, gas and air…I continue.
After I put gas in the car, I pulled over to the air pump, which; of course, they charge for…which I don’t get! For crying out loud, when I was a kid, air was FREE…they even washed your windshield, checked your oil and gave you S&H Green Stamps after THEY filled your car up with gas! In those days you could even buy China in grocery stores…remember that? We would have eaten off of paper plates had it not been for Mark’s Grocery Store in Columbus Indiana doing a promotional every week. When you bought so many groceries, you got a plate, or a gravy boat or a saucer (that goes under your coffee cup), Anyway, I keep digressing…
The air pump was, of course broken. I have a small air compressor in my trunk that came with the Solstice that I always forget about, so, I decided to use it and move on to work. I plugged it into the electrical port and began filling my tire up. As I did this, a guy pulls up behind me waiting to fill up his tire too. He got out of his car and I explained to him that the air pump was broken, but that I would be happy to let him use my little compressor. In a thick Jersey accent he says,
“You gonna let me use your compressa?!” (not compressor…compressa) with real surprise in his voice. I smiled and said, “Sure”! he laughed out loud and asked, Where you from mista…KENTUCKY?!!” He laughed again. I told him it was far worse than that…I was from Indiana. I began hooking up the compressor to his low tire.
He laughed again and said, “how much do I owe ya?” I told him no charge at which time he began laughing again. He came over and slapped me on the back and said, “I moved here (pronounced “he-a) wid my fambly about 8 monts (not months…Monts) ago and I can’t believe how nice da people ah he-a! But I gotta pay ya somthin’!” I asked him what part of New Jersey he was from. Again he laughed…I mean, held his belly and laughed and he got me laughing too. He bent over he was laughing so hard. Finally he looked up at me and said, “How’d you know I waddn’t (wasn’t) fum Tennessee?!”
This time it was my turn to laugh. I said, “Well, according to your accent, I knew it wasn’t Little Rock!” He looked at me and while laughing again he said, wiping the tears from his eyes, “I’m from Patasson” (Patterson) which I didn’t even know was a city. I saw his tire was full and turned off the compressor, removed the hose from his tire and he thanked me. I shook his hand and said no problem…God bless you.
No sooner had the words left my mouth, another car pulls up wanting air. My new friend, whose name was Robert (pronounced “Rob-at) said, “Oh boy…you gonna be he-a all day!” I laughed and walked over to tell the other person that the air was not working but that they could use my compressor. Robert got into his car and drove up to the store to go in. I helped the lady put air in her tire and she thanked me and then asked me to check her oil. Inwardly I began laughing, because she thought I worked there, but…you know, what the heck?! I’ll do it. It reminded me of when I worked at Hidenrite Sunoco in Owensboro, Kentucky in 1978…during the blizzard! I asked her to turn off her car and pop the hood, which she did. I located the dipstick, opened my trunk and pulled out an old t-shirt, wiped off the excess oil and checked the level. It was good.
I walked around and told her that the oil level was good. She looked perplexed at me and asked, “Are you sure?” I said, “Yes, ma’am it’s perfect.” She asked me, “Well, why don’t I have heat in my car then?” I told her the heat and the oil don’t have anything to do with each other, and said, her coolant was probably low. We let her car cool down a bit and I looked to see. I was right…her coolant was dangerously low. At this time, my friend Robert drives back up and hands me a cup of coffee out his window. I thanked him, and he asked, “Do you have a cad (card)?” I said I didn’t. The lady locked her car and went into the Twice Daily to buy some coolant. I told her I would put it in for her.
Robert said, “You gonna put coolant in her caa (car)? I nodded yes. He poked around in his glove box and produced a card. He said, “Dis is me…you need sumthin, you know who ta call!” I thanked him and off he drove. The woman reappeared with a gallon of coolant. I made sure it was the kind that her car manufacturer said to use…(it was Dexcool). When she got in I told her to start the car and began pouring it in. It needed more, and she said she would have her husband put more in…she just lived up the road. Heat began coming out of her vents. She then asked me, “How much do I owe you?” I told her nothing. She asked, with raised eyebrow, “Now, your employer probably charges for this, so let’s not cheat them…how much do I owe you?!” she asked with BOTH eyebrows raised. She reminded me of my mom.
I said, “Ma’am I don’t work here, I just pulled up here to put air in my tire.” She turned red and began apologizing. I laughed and said, “Really…no problem”
At that moment, Robert pulled up again. He had gone next door to Sonic and gotten me the equivalent to an egg McMuffin. The lady said, thank you and drove away. Robert looked at me and said, “I haven’t neva seen dis before…I asked him what he meant. He said, “I feel kinda guilty…like I should be doin this kinda stuff too.” I told him, I knew exactly what he meant.
I told him the story of the first time I moved away from home and moved to Owensboro, Kentucky. He laughed and said, “Ya see, you ahh from Kentucky!” I told him that I had run out of gas on I-64 and that a man in a pick up truck stopped, went to a gas station and got me 5 gallons of gas…and then drove off. I told him that when I was staying in a motel, that a maintenance man saw my back right tire was flat. I said, “I was young and didn’t know what I was going to do”. An hour later the maintenance man jacked my car up, took my tire to a garage, had it fixed, and put it back on my little 1975 Honda Civic… then walked away. He shook his head side to side and said, “ya see, I should be doin dat kinda thing”.
I went for it. I said, “Robert, when you have seen the kindness of God, as much as I have, you can’t do anything BUT reach out to others.” I asked him if he had ever seen the goodness and mercy of God in his life. He nodded yes and said, “My fatha’s (father’s) a pasta (not spaghetti…he meant Pastor). “I grew up with dis stuff foreva…I guess I forgot…I guess a lot of us forget don’t we?” I nodded yes. He smiled, we shook hands, and he said, “I gotta go…” I asked him to let me pray for him. He let me. Then he looked at me and said, “It’s time I get back to church.” Cya! And off he drove…
I can’t explain the number of people who have loved me, helped me and gave to me in my hour of need…but I can tell you it is in the thousands. From giving me money…to helping me with rent, or my bills, or fix my car. I’ve had friends pay for me to go to conferences, buy me groceries and leave them on my front door step. Every time it happened it was SO humbling because grace breaks our pride doesn’t it? Grace and Mercy win us over because they are a divine response to us when we deserve it the least. My friend Duane Isenberg once towed my car from Indianapolis, changed out the blown engine and gave me back my car. He didn’t charge me a dime. Duane was Jesus to me that day.
At a time in my life when I had no one to talk to, I remember I walked into a Psychiatrists office in Tucson Arizona. At that time, life was hard, I was driving a beat up car. I was bussing tables early in the morning at one resort and waiting tables late at night at another. I had no one to counsel me so I went to a Jewish Psychiatrists office named David Feigenbaum. He was kind, spoke gently to me with real wisdom and I made it through the hard time. He knew I didn’t have any money. He said, “No problem…I’m giving back because someone gave to me.” David Feigenbaum was Jesus to me that day.
Has someone given to you? Is it time to pass it forward in the Name of Jesus? I can’t possibly pay back all that has been given to me, but what I have, I give. It’s how we’ll win the world back to the Father…
And, Oh Lord, how I wish, that I had the faith of Peter to say, “Silver and gold, I do not have but what I have I will give to you…in the Name of Jesus of Nazareth…stand up and walk!” Lord, increase my faith to do more than fill up tires with air. Give me the boldness to lay hands on sick people so they will be healed…enough of filling cars with coolant…let the body of Christ rise up and do exploits for a King that has given us everything…that has laid it down so we could walk upon the high places of the earth.
It is time to be bold and to give our lives away. It is time to lay aside pride and do the work of God while it is day. The night is coming when no man can work.