Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Conversation With A Stranger At Russell And Smith Honda

It's Spring Break at WCS and believe it or not, it's my busiest week of the year. I have a bunch of stuff to accomplish, like writing Gina and Keith's wedding ceremony which I will perform in eleven days. This week is always a good time for me to take care of upcoming projects, like planning my summer mission trip to Vietnam in July. There are more mundane matters as well. As my vehicle registration yearly expires on the final day of March, I use the time off to get my car inspected and pick up the new window stickers. Today was that day. I also needed an oil change (my warning light reminded me I was at 10%) so I drove the six miles to see the fine folks where I bought my car five years ago, Russell And Smith Honda. As I waited in the showroom area in one of the comfortable chairs, I wrote part of the marriage ceremony. To my left, separated by a small end table, was an elderly gentleman. Several times, he stood up and walked the few feet to a desk manned by a young employee; he was treated with utmost courtesy and returned to his seat. I asked him what was the purpose of his visit was. He showed me an official looking document informing him that his twelve year old Honda was being recalled due to an airbag issue. The paper told him it would only take thirty minutes and that milestone had long passed. We had a good laugh and began what would be a ten minute conversation.

I found out he was ninety-two years old and still driving although his son this past year had asked him not to drive at night anymore. I learned his name was Cecil and he was originally from Ecuador- by my feeble attempt to guess origin based on accent, I would have guessed eastern European. His wife was Cuban- a knockout!- and they had one son who has an MBA. He graduated from the University of Illinois-Champaign/Urbana and lived in Chicago for many years. His career had been as an engineer with International Harvester and he and his wife had moved to Houston more than thirty year ago. He knew the area where I live in southwest Houston because they had lived near the Jewish Community Center, a landmark in this part of town. His Honda had only fifty thousand miles on it and he played tennis up until two years ago. His wife spent her life helping the poor in the apartments on West Bellfort. He once argued with his son who wanted to speak English at home in spite of the fact that his mom spoke very little. Dad won, a fact he credits with his son being perfectly bilingual. And twenty six years ago, he started an ESL program at the Catholic church next door to ours. Beginning with only seven students, the roll sheet now numbers well more than a hundred. This is his first year of not teaching; please refer back to his son not letting him drive after dark anymore. And several weeks ago, he was honored with an award recognizing his contribution to that education outreach. I was almost sad when the young lady doing the paperwork on my Honda Fit came and informed me my car was ready. The ten minutes had flown by and my existence had been enriched.

I hope I didn't bore you with random information about someone who it is overwhelmingly improbable you will ever meet. But here's the point. I now know more about Cecil, whose life crossed mine for only 1/6th of an hour, than I do a number of my colleagues who I work with daily and with whom I share Godly goals. I know more about a stranger than I do about the lives of many of the brothers and sisters I worship with three services per week. There is something wrong with that, I think. Facebook and cellphones and e-mail and Twitter have turned us into effortless communicators who don't have to make eye contact to engage another human being. I'm not the most outgoing person and social media (I'm coming to despise that term) allows me almost to eavesdrop on friends' conversations from the anonymity of a computer screen. Do you know the only reason I conversed with Cecil today? I couldn't access the Russell and Smith Wi-Fi on my Dell laptop, that's why. My technological incompetence alone put me into the position of  speaking to a lonely ninety-two year old man who wanted someone to listen to him. (Did I mention his lovely bride passed away three years ago?) Shame on me. I bet Jesus made it a point to get past the surface level with those whose lives He changed forever. I've got some growing up to do.

Applicable quote of the day:
"Our culture is all about shallow relationships. But that doesn't mean we should stop looking each other in the eye and having deep conversations."
Francis Chan

God bless,
Luke 18:1

E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.co

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