Sometimes, I think cars choose the most inconvenient times to act up, just for kicks.
I speak from experience. One day I was flying out of the house, late to drop off my son for practice and late for a tutoring session, when I noticed my tire needed air. Badly, of course. I drove to the nearest service station and found my way to the air pump/machine. This computer-type gadget was fancier than the last one I’d used; it had all kinds of digital settings and buttons. It was set to 75, which seemed like a nice number to me. But after a few minutes of filling the tire, the machine’s readout was still hovering at 38. Suddenly, all this fanciness didn’t seem so great. When I looked up to check again, there was a scary, sour-faced man staring at me. Two things registered immediately: 1) He was an employee there. 2) He was losing a battle with drugs. Badly.
The contempt in his eyes was only bearable because he couldn’t seem to focus on any one object for too long. With sluggish distaste, he moved towards me, asking if I knew what I was doing.
“Probably not,” I said, smiling – and silently grateful for daylight and the other people with car trouble.
Oblivious to my humour, he berated me for setting the machine to pressure meant for truck tires, and asked if my SUV looked like a truck. I held my tongue, aware that my answer wouldn’t help his mood. After a few more barbs, he loudly showed me the spot inside the car door where a sticker dictated what the air pressure in each tire should be. Then he asked me to read it. Breathing very slowly, I did. The sticker said 33. That floored me. I’d been driving around with that for years, but had gone through service stations just…guessing.
He checked the pressure on the other tires (none of them registering what the manufacturer had so kindly suggested), snorting disbelief with each adjustment he made. I tried to thank him for educating me, but he turned off with a dismissive gesture that might as well have been a middle finger.
To this day, I’m grateful for that guy. He taught me what it looks like, practically, to give Grace to people who need it. It’s not as easy as it sounds in sermons – I’m just saying. A related lesson: gifts don’t always come in pretty packages. An unpleasant situation could be hiding a life-saving lesson, if we’re patient and willing to look at it with fresh eyes. I also learned that silence can pave the way to a blessing. Several times during that “conversation”, I wanted to be salty; to give as good as I got. But sometimes, just being quiet can accomplish far more than we can imagine. So maybe instead of reacting by rote to life’s bumps or panicking at its flat tires, we can be still long enough to discover that the answers we need have been with us the whole ride.