Dammit! The “check engine” and “problem” alerts flashed again on the screen. My 2007 Prius is an excellent car, but at almost 300,000 miles and counting, we wouldn’t normally be surprised when an occasional issue pops up.
However, this time we were. It passed inspection last week and supposedly had some minor problems solved. We drove it 3 hours to the beach a few days later and left it sit idle in front of our rented house; a 10 day vacation for both our family and our car.
But now, 30 minutes into a 3 hour drive home, the same old things were happening. The LCD screen was lit up with that dreaded, neon orange exclamation point encased in a neon orange triangle. The word “problem” settled itself across the top of the screen. The loud, clear beep of the alert made it seem like we should evacuate the vehicle.
Not sure if this was a real emergency or an over-sensitive sensor, we pulled off the road and into the parking lot of a nice, new convenience store. We hadn’t noticed parking right next to a very well-kept, Tweety Bird- yellow Corvette.
As my wife and I got out of the car and looked under the hood for clues, a young couple in their early 20’s exited the store and headed toward their sweet Corvette. Seeing our predicament, the guy asked if he could help us at all.
Before I could say anything, he told us that he’s a car enthusiast that enjoys fixing up old models as well as new. He pointed to the Corvette he practically rebuilt, and rattled off a list of pretty serious tools he had in his trunk, just in case anyone would ever need them.
Wow! How do you argue with that? My wife and I know nothing about cars and mechanicals, and out walks this guy at the perfect time!
He was eager to help us, and we needed it.
Turns out our unexpected, new mechanic was stationed at a nearby Air Force base with his girlfriend. And if he and the others weren’t flying planes, they were….working on their cars.
It also turns out that our new friend really did have some serious auto-shop tools in his rebuilt Corvette. He ran a bunch of tests on our car, checked out several other things, made an educated guess at the problem, and actually fixed it! Apparently something needed to be reset and the fact that it wasn’t was causing certain sensors to panic for no reason.
He spent about 20 minutes working on our Prius, while my wife and his girlfriend talked about kids, hometowns, and the obsessive hobbies of their men.
When everything was finished, I offered to pay our helper, or at least to buy him beer from the store we were parked in front of, but he politely refused. Saying he was just glad to help, he shook my hand, got into his sports car and revved the engine.
My wife and I drove the rest of the way home with gratitude, but without any more car problems.
It was fun seeing how much the man enjoyed working on our car, not just for the mechanical adventure, but because he truly enjoyed helping others. He’s not alone. Most people do enjoy being able to help those in need. It feels good to do good.
But in order for help to be given, help must be accepted.
What if I had refused our mechanic friend’s offer and forged ahead on my own? It would have been stupid of course, but I wonder how often in life we do things just like that.
Are we comfortable giving help but uneasy receiving it? Even if, like us that night, we really need it?
Are you fond of grabbing the check at dinner with friends but feisty when they try to pay for your meal?
There are probably people in your life for whom you would drop everything to help, at great inconvenience to yourself. But, should you need help from them, would you make it worse by waiting to call them for fear of being a bother?
I’m curious about how people feel about these things because I grew up in a family of helpers that often resisted being helped. I don’t know if that was just prideful family members trying to “out-nice each other”, or if this is something people really struggle with.
Had our mechanic friend and I treated each other the way my aunts treated each other when I was a kid, I would have demanded that he accept a few 20’s for his help. When he refused, I would insist again, dumping the money into his car just as he closed the door. He would probably have pulled out of the parking space, rolled down the window and threw the money back at me before speeding off. I would pick it up, put it in an envelope and mail it to him if I had his address.
My aunts wanted to be helpers, not receivers of help, but my wife and I felt pretty good as we drove home that night in a car that someone we didn’t know repaired for free.
Even though it often feels better to give help than to receive, receiving with gratitude is pretty good too. Let’s strive to be good at both.
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