Be Radiant

The Kindness of Strangers

Cars have one purpose to me, to get me from point A to point B, with all my “stuff”. In fact, when I buy a new car I am often asked if I would like to see under the hood. NO is my strong response. I want it to work, I do not need to know how, I explain. That is all fine and dandy, until it does not work, which was the case yesterday.

I had been in Grand Rapids, Michigan speaking at an Advent event, my last speech of the year and I was headed back to Ohio. I was tired, four talks in less than 10 days all over the mid-west was exhausting for me. Truly it should not have been a surprise that it was on the way back to Ohio, following my last talk, that the car decided to mis-behave.

In the midst of Michigan farmland, the coolant light comes on. I know enough to know that this is not a good situation, but where to get off? The next big city was Lansing 30-45 minutes away, so I headed there. I could not find a BMW dealer, but I did find an AutoZone, not too far off the highway as I thought that might be a good starting point, and it was. The woman working the front desk said they could let the engine cool down, add some coolant and get me on the way. “But, let me check under the hood” she said.

She looks and exclaims, “This is not good, there is fluid everywhere around the engine!” She explains to me that this is beyond what she is able to fix there and we need to get it into a shop. Further, she explains, she does not want to see me drive it at all, really. However, there is a repair shop across the street that they have used at times and they were very good. It was safe, she thought, for me to drive it across the street.

She patted me on the back saying she knew this was not good but that it would get fixed and we would get me safely back to Ohio. I head across the street and the young man said traditionally they did not fix cars except for current customers. But, given the situation, he would see what they could do. He asked what type of car and I explained a BMW SUV. Well, he was concerned as they don’t fix BMW’s too often. But, he would check with the tech who has worked on BMW’s and see what he thought. Five minutes later he came back saying that the tech was concerned with working on the car and didn’t want to cause more damage or not fix it correctly, especially given what had been discovered.

They recommended a repair shop another mile away that focused on Imports. It wasn’t far, I could make it and they provided all the information I needed so I could head over there. At the Import shop, they were also concerned. First of all, they were pretty booked that day, but more importantly, they did not have BMW parts in stock and were afraid they would not be able to get the car fixed for a few days.

The Import shop explained that there was in fact a BMW dealer in town, but that it goes under a different name and is often not found. He pulled up all the information and gave me turn by turn directions himself to get me there safely. Still a few miles away, but less than a 10 minute drive.

My sigh of relief was heard all around Lansing as I pulled into that dealership. But now, could they fix it? In the end, while it was a simple fix, just a ruptured hose, they did not have the part in stock and they could not get it in for at least a day, possibly two. So, what to do? The service advisor Brad, explained to me that he called the technicians together and challenged them to find a creative solution, and they did. He later shared, that the technicians had a great deal of fun actually brainstorming to solve the problem.

Sitting at the dealership, waiting for the car to be repaired, I could only think of how grateful I was for the kindness of strangers. For the woman who let me know how concerning the problem might be and where to go to get it fixed. For the guys who offered me possible repair shops, phone numbers and addresses. For the technicians who brainstormed how to get it corrected. For those who had the integrity to say that they were concerned with trying to fix it and recommended an alternative shop.

In this day and age we seem to hear about so much ugly stuff; maliciousness, lying and dishonesty. I was privileged to witness the exact opposite, truth, integrity, and kindness to a stranger. I can not really thank these people for I do not know their names, save one, Brad at the dealership. But, I can put my appreciation out there with hopes that all those who are kind to a stranger feel the appreciation.

As for Brad, he made it all happen, with such kindness. I asked him if I could give him a hug – for how do you possibly thank someone who helps you like that? It may have been a long and tiring day, but in the end, it was quite a radiant day, for the honest, kind and helpful people I met along the way! In this beautiful Christmas season, I am truly grateful.

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