I truly believe the United States is through with me and cars. And while I believe that, I also have come to believe that I'm God's favorite (ok now, we all are, but he's currently teaching me that lesson personally) and I'm learning and accepting more grace through the area of motor vehicles.
Let's start with example one: I'm driving down a country road 10:05 at night. I hear a bluh-p, bluh-p, bluh-p, bluh-p, bluh-p and a car rattling followed by extreme shaking from my rear left tire zone and I know I have a flat tire (ughh--I'm in a dress!). The windy country road has no lights lining it nor pull off areas and I'm by myself. I know I have friends leaving the same event I was just at and that there's a gas station near by, so I keep moving 20 mphs on down to the gas station and call them to let them know what's up.
I pull in and block a car from exiting from where they were pumping gas. I get out and take a deep breath as I examine it. Now the guy I blocked in comes and stands next to me to also examine the damage. He's from the country, wearing a baseball cap, tan, blue t-shirt, and sporting jorts and sneakers. Follows me to my trunk and says, "Now mam, i'm just tryin' to help; not tryin' to steal anythin'," begins pulling out my spare kit, when his buddy comes out of the convenient store and joins right in. I hear the same line, "mam I'm not tryin' steal anythin', just gettin' some mo' tools out the back." (ok they had an endearing country accent and its hard to recreate). 30 seconds later, my car is jacked. Two minutes later they find my problem--a huge nail. One minute later, they've repaired it (but I've done too much damage to my wheel from driving on it to use it). They give me some instructions and advice, finish servicing my car, putting on the spare, tell me they're mechanics- and drive off after having some pleasant conversations with me, my friend Steph, and Kiersten (who is about to get married the next day), and accepting no kind of gift.
They were in one minute, out the other. Totally improved my situation and gave me better service than any professional I probably could have called that night and accepted nothing from me and just left. I mean dark country road people. Total darkness and not so fun--to TWO mechanics ready and willing to help? I just have to be thankful for that and wowed that I'm watched out for.
Example Two: I'm in Baltimore. I'm on my last day as a "freelance researcher" for the DOE (Department of Education), "ready to learn" grant testing to help improve literacy in low-income areas of Baltimore. I jump into my car, put the keys in the ignition and hear a little "put, put put," followed by, "ANH, ANH, ANH, ANH!" My car battery was dead, and my alarm system on the car was going off! Of course I have no clicker for my VW to turn it off since it's a 96' and I'm stranded for all of ten seconds on this unfamiliar street in Baltimore thinking, "What am I going to do?"
A car pulls up beside me, and a heavy-set, tattooed "Mark" with brown scruffy hair, beard, and maroon shirt, and jeans rolls down his window where his "Honey,"a brown-haired, oval shaped, brownish green eyed sweet woman says, "Oh dear, we been watchin' that car all last night wonderin' who it belonged to," and continues through a slightly raspy smoker voice, "we knew it'd be dead this mornin' but didn't know how to find who owned the vehicle." Eek, I left the lights on? Mark leans over his honey and says, "I'm takin' her to work and I'll be right back to jump your car."
They drive off, I stay standing next to my, "ANH-ANH-ANH-ANH!" angry dead car waiting. People walk by and either 1. look at me with pitiful expressions (that was one girl and she actually asked what was wrongt) or 2. Completely ignored my existence and the car which you could probably hear from two to three blocks around.
Mark comes back--Puts on the jumper cables and helps me while my car keeps yelling at us. We end up calling a volkswagon dealer to learn how to turn off the alarm (pretty cool trick if any of you ever want to know, ask) and then my car's back on.
As we wait for it to charge, he tells me how him and his honey have moved to this part of Baltimore because it's nicer area. He says its a shame that the John Hopkins University student just got murdered (he points right behind him where he says it happened), by people who live nearby (he points in front of us where apparently they came from). And suddenly I am struck with major intense grattitude (more so than I already had, and I'm telling you my thankful meter has been off the charts) because I'm realizing that I'm probably not in the safest place. This guy Mark totally saved me in my situation. Got me going, gave me some advice, and said, "Hey, it's my good deed for the day." Then he drives off out of my life.
Again, can't do anything for these people--they wouldn't accept anything from me. I said, "bless you," and expressed my grattitude, then had an intense prayer session asking God to bless them and let him know how thankful I am... but really words are not enough! It seems that I can never do anything at all to repay them for their kindness... I will never be able to give them something back in return for how good they were to me in those moments.
(I feel like I'm up in the clouds)
Anyway, these car scenarios keep bringing me to God's grace. Grace. I love the word. I've learned that grace is unmerited favor--meaning that I didn't do anything to deserve it. That it is God's Riches At Christ's Expense... meaning I get to experience goodness because of what Jesus did for me on the cross. And I truly am reminded of all that through guys like my back country friends who fixed my flat tire, and my tattooed friend Mark, who just pulled up beside me and saved my situation. These were favorable moments--these people didn't owe me anything, I didn't earn a right to their help or their services, but they just gave help freely to a D.I.D (Damsel in Distress--for all you Hercules Disney movie watchers) who could give nothing back. And the fact that I can give them nothing back but accept the gift, just brings me gratitude and love for these people. And gratitude love for God who did the same thing for me when he pulled me out of my dead state to offer life before I knew him. And hey... let the good deeds roll because they have been awesome lessons!
and my last totally off topic side-note that I have been thinking about:
I just wanted to reflect about how cool technology is--that this morning I talked to Savanna and Diane all the way in Bangladesh and got a tour of their apartment and see their new roommate--all because of technology and Skype! So great!
And now, as I'm getting kicked off the roads of the U.S through car troubles, and have sat in Grace abounding thought sessions, while figuring out skype... I believe I can sign off and get some major packing done for Italy!