Open Your Heart – and the Rest Will Follow

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:

Photo Credit: Lee Schelim

Photo Credit: Lee Schelim

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.

About Rutabaga the Mercenary Researcher

I'm a research librarian for Public Television, story teller, bike commuter, baker, music fiend, lover of reading & books, mother, wife, friend - and many more descriptive adjectives and nouns.
This entry was posted in Childhood, Children, Family, Hot Rods, love, Nursing, Random Thoughts, Relationships, Story, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to Open Your Heart – and the Rest Will Follow

  1. Rohan 7 Things says:

    Wow, wow, wow what a great post! And I think you did a great job relaying the story. It would actually make for a brilliant short story.

    Real dream-come-true stuff, I love it 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!


  2. Love this story. I think it illustrates how important the human connection really is. We need to notice and acknowledge each other, and open ourselves to them. Who knows what kind of impact it could have.

  3. stephrogers says:

    And just like that people don’t all suck. Thank you.

  4. Sam Adeyinka says:

    Hey Rutabaga,

    This post is awe-inspiring, I mean from the back of the crowd to the front was the story of Billy. And your papa in-Law is such a fantastic old man. Say me hi to this folks and tell’em they are great.

    I’m glad I found your blog:)


  5. runningonsober says:

    Love this, Ruta! 🙂

  6. Elyse says:

    I was about to head off for the weekend and thought, just one blog before I go. So glad I picked this wonderful story. Thanks for starting my weekend with a smile!

  7. This story melts my heart, Denise! I loved it. I think a lot of times when someone does something out of the goodness of their own heart and expect nothing in return, they get it back tenfold. That is so satisfying when that happens. This post makes me want to reach out more. Thanks for sharing, miss!

  8. JackieP says:

    It’s stories like this with people like that, that keep my faith in people alive and well. Wonderful story, wonderfully written. 🙂

  9. MissFourEyes says:

    I love this story. 🙂
    Gerald sounds like a really, really great person.

  10. djmatticus says:

    I love hearing stories like this…they make me smile, they make me happy to know that there are still good people in this world. Thank you for sharing!

  11. El Guapo says:

    And I bet Gerald doesn’t brag about it either – it was just something he thought should be done.

    Great tale!

  12. Beautiful story and a reminder to all to take a moment to listen and care enough to make a small, meaningful difference in someone’s day~ just might make a huge difference in someone’s life.

  13. RCW says:

    This is an amazing story. It’s just wonderful. 🙂 I have to go now, too. Something is in my eyes…

  14. twindaddy says:

    Gerald sounds like a human being we should all aspire to be like.

  15. rossmurray1 says:

    Very cool. There are fewer things better than seeing a young person engrossed in something that gets them excited.

  16. Vicki Wright says:

    Heartwarming story……. and keep on spreading the love and light, Ruta! That is a wonderful thing to do in this world too! : )

  17. This story reminds me so much of my Dad. When he was a teen in Fort Worth, Texas in the 50s, he loved Hot Rods. He owned a ’57 Chevy and it ran like a scalded dog (street legal). He carried that love of cars and Hot Rods till the day he died.

    Thank you & God bless you for sharing this uplifting story.

    I gotta go now….I have something in my eyes.

  18. What a touching story. Gerald sounds like an amazing person to reach out like that. What really strikes me is how brave it was for his nurse to reach back! So many people, especially ones who regularly take care of others, feel vulnerable accepting help. She did an amazing thing for her son by taking the risk to open up. Thank you for putting a smile on my face.

    • This story always puts a smile on my face – I think Dorian wants to be Billy eventually….hopefully, we’ll bypass the divorce and trouble stage portions and skip to learning to build a hot rod.

      I think all the players in that story are pretty amazing people.

  19. Beautiful story………makes me think of this quote by Margaret Mead:
    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
    You’ve got a gem of a father-in-law!

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