I’m particularly fond of this story, and I hope I do it justice. It touches on all the things that are good, like hope, kindness and caring. In a world where people are afraid to reach out because they might get sued or they feel that there’s nothing in it for ‘them’, it’s lovely to hear stories that transcend that mentality.
My Father-in-law is a retired automotive consultant and engineer as well as a superb mechanic with the patience of a saint. He spends his days at his friend’s automotive garage, shooting the breeze, helping out and being amongst the things that make him happy… cars. This garage, whilst catering to all cars, specializes in antique cars and hot rods. On any given day at the garage you will see cars such as this:
The coolest thing about the garage is that the owner allows his regular customers to use the garage to work on their custom hot rods. As well, he hosts a yearly Christmas Eve potluck in the garage that draws over a 100 people – all bringing food galore. It floors me every time; how one person brings all these people together. You never know who you might run into at the Christmas Party.
A few years ago, “Gerald” (the owner) was carving one the deep fried turkeys at the party, but he looked a little worse for wear. Turns out he’d spent some time in the hospital and was slowly recovering. My Father-in-law shared with me a story of a Gerald’s hospital stay.
It seems that Gerald struck up a friendship with one of the nurses. He’d noticed that she seemed a little sad and after he’d gained her trust, she opened up to him her personal story. She was a recently divorced parent of 2 children. A boy, aged 12 and a girl aged 9 – each child was dealing with their parent’s divorce in different ways. The boy, ‘Billy’, who was typically a good student, had started skipping classes, his grades took a dive, he was getting in trouble; basically he was on his way down a path that scared his mom. She didn’t know how to help him, reach him or guide him. She told Gerald that one thing that she knew he loved was cars. He was fascinated with hot rods – specifically, he wanted to build one. But he was only 12 – too young for shop and his mom had not the resources to ‘find’ a place for him to explore his passion. Gerald told her to bring her son down to the shop when he was out of the hospital.
And so she did. It changed her son’s life. He immediately fell in love with Gerald’s garage and all the beautiful antique cars and hot rods. All the regulars became very attached to Billy – on weekends, on their own time, people came to the garage to work with him and teach him how to build a hot rod. He learned to weld, build, fix, take apart – all the aspects of being a mechanic. The deal that Gerald made with Billy was this – if he kept his grades up, went to his classes and stopped getting in trouble, he’d allow Billy to use the garage and build a hot rod. Bill did just that. He started from scratch, the body is an amalgam of other cars, he built the engine, all of it– people donated parts, helped him earn money, and like I mentioned before, taught him everything they knew about cars (including my fabulous Father-in-law). Today, Billy is interning at the garage during the summer and his Hot Rod is street legal, just waiting for him to turn 16 in a couple of months and get his driver’s license. He turned his life around and every Christmas I talk to his mom, who just BEAMS with happiness.
Many people wouldn’t have even noticed their nurse, much less taken the time to reach out to that nurse, care about her fears and anxieties, taken a young boy under their wing – done any of that. Gerald put himself out there – he did not think “what’s in it for me?” – He opened his heart and changed a family’s life. That is the mark of a truly beautiful person.
I would love to post a picture of Billy’s hot rod – but for privacy reasons, I cannot. However, know it’s freakin’ AWESOME.