Thursday, September 6, 2018

What You Do, Matters

The Mr and I met as teenagers at a retail job.  My mom also worked at the same place right after her divorce.  As a single mom on a retail salary and getting a pittance in child support, she didn't have money for unexpected expenses.  When she would have trouble with her car, she'd take it to the auto department of the store to get an estimate to see if it was dire and how the heck she was going to come up with the money or if it was something she could skate by on.  The manager back there came to know her well and knew based on the things she would pass on that she couldn't afford things like nail holes in a tire (remember when that seemed to happen a LOT back in the 80's/90's??) or oil changes for an extra 500 - 1000 miles.  Soon he would start giving her tire plugs for free, and if her oil needed to be changed, he'd only charge her for the parts and no labor.  He was a gruff former Navy guy who always reminded me of that dude who showed his butt in NYPD Blue, but he had a heart of gold.  (The manager, I can't vouch for the NYPD Blue dude.)

When I got my first car, it was from an auction lot, and my grandpa fixed it up for me since that was his thing.  But once that initial fix-up period was over, he didn't do you any favors.  No free oil changes or anything like that, he expected you to be responsible, and I think to some degree, I also got some of that from him.  That car was okay at first, but it ended up having a lot of problems that actually gave our family mechanic WAY out in the boonies nightmares.  Literally.  He told me "I had dreams about your car last night, that's how bad this is!"  Comforting.  Anyhoo.  When things would come up with my car, the auto manager knew who I was through my mom.  He knew I worked part-time while going to school and couldn't afford much either.  So he would help me too with the little things like tire plugs for free, giving me basically a brand new tire one time and at cost oil changes off the books.  I think even if the store manager found out about all he did, he would've been too scared to confront him about it anyway.  LOL

He was a little different with dudes.  He didn't cut the same kind of breaks to them because he barely got the chance to get to know them.  The Mr worked in the automotive department for a bit and while it wouldn't go past more than a nod sometimes or him going out to ask him a question with short answers, he came to know him more than pretty much any of the other teenage guys there.  I admit, most of them were idiots and given retail's typically high turnover, I don't blame him for not getting close.  It was apparent he was more chivalrous toward the ladies.  Once he got to know the Mr and know that he was my boyfriend, he seemed to soften a bit.  His generosity of taking a look at things to give an estimate or cutting costs where he could extended to him as well.  One time the Mr took his car in after his speedometer in his muscle car broke.  He was getting a lot of tickets and his family wasn't in a position to help him get it fixed.  He asked the manager to look at it and give him an estimate because he knew a dealer would overcharge.  He told him to come back at the end of the day and he'd give him an estimate.

When he went to see what the damage was, he said: "your speedometer isn't broken."
"It is though" the Mr replied.
He turned on the car to see the speedometer fixed and the manager walking away with a little grin on his face.  That's just the kind of guy he was.  Whenever talk of our early dating comes up and the people at that place, he always fondly comes up in conversation.

I assumed I would never know what happened to him or that he'd passed.  While thinking of him last weekend, I laughed at the idea he could be on Facebook because that would so NOT be him but looked him up anyway...and there he was!  He still looked pretty much the same and had that same scary tattoo we both remembered.  I teared up seeing him and thinking of how his generosity had helped my entire family at one time or another and how he would never know what that meant.  But why not?  Because here he was...I could tell him even if he didn't remember me.

And so I did.

I told him he probably wouldn't remember me all these years later but what he did for each of us and how much we all still remember and appreciate how he helped us.  I told him we always knew everyone saw him as a tough guy but we knew he was a teddy bear, and for three broke people, his kindness meant everything.  I told him we still talk about how much he helped us out and how thankful we still are for that and just wanted him to know.  I don't know if he'll ever see it, honestly, because I don't know how often he gets on Facebook or if it was just something his grandkids helped him set up and the novelty passed.  But what if he does see it?  What would it mean to know things you did 25 years ago still resonated with a whole family, and they always appreciated you just being you?  We all need recognition that our life matters not only to the people close to us but that the way we choose to live our lives impacts others in a good way so that maybe one day they would do something nice by our influence.  I know what that would mean to me and I don't ever need him to respond if he does see it, it's not about that.  It's just about him knowing.

We are sometimes too embarrassed or shy to let people know what they mean to us or how they've impacted our lives if they're not family or close friends.  That needs to change.  We're all just struggling to make our way and to (hopefully) be the nicest version of ourselves in a world obsessed with tearing people down and judging others like they have a gavel in their hand.  Too many people are bogged down with not feeling good enough or like their lives don't matter much outside of their circle, but they do.  I'm glad I found him before it was too late to let him know what his kindness meant to all of us.

Who has had an impact on you that doesn't necessarily know it?  If they're still alive, will you tell them if you can find them?

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  1. I'm glad you found him and got the chance to tell him. This is an awesome example of how we all can do seemingly small things for others and have no idea just how much of an impact it can make for them even years later. We were kids and he didn't have to bother with us at all but he did and look how it helped shape our lives. Kind of makes you want to remember to do those small things for others as much as you can.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing, I love this story!! I think the Universe must be sending me a message because I just finished a book with a similar theme - A Man Called Ove. Very touching.

  3. I've had several people who've touched me deeply by their kindness and acceptance, some of which I never knew their last names. I think that's partly why I make it a point to show my thanks and appreciation for people that really don't know me. Whether it's someone who comes to my house for services, auto people, or someone out in the community, I just like to say thank you. Sometimes it's met with a look like, "who are you and what do you want from me", but that doesn't bother me. We live in a pretty jaded society as it is, so I know that I'm not responsible for how someone reacts. I'm just happy to give a thank you, whatever it may be, and always hope that in their private moments they'll smile and be thankful someone remembered them during their day. You often hear things like, "you're too nice" and I always scratch my head at that. How can you be too nice to someone? It doesn't cost a penny to smile, hold a door open, or write an anonymous card to someone. And if money is involved, whether it be not charging you for services (like your awesome guy did) or spending money to give treats to someone, what better way is there to spend money! Everybody gets blessed by kindness. Thanks for sharing such a great story!

  4. My mother makes a habit of sending letters or emails to recognize when an employee has done a really good job. She does it very regularly.

    (I realize you can’t do that if it is going to get the employee in trouble, like it would have in your story about your car guy.)

    I volunteer for an organization. And just yesterday I was thinking what a good job the girl does coordinating volunteers. Really outstanding. She has a paid position and volunteers are part of it, but she goes above and beyond being efficient, organized and friendly.


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