An Accidental Gift: Lessons from a Body Shop

It had been a good day.

Everything had gone according to my plan.

Meeting in the morning, lunchtime Nia class at Movement Lab, work remotely for a few hours, and have a late lunch at my new favorite spot in Baltimore, R. House.

I was in the car getting ready to head back to the office to pick up a few things. I was backing out of the parking spot, checking my rearview mirror to make sure all was clear.

And then I heard it…and felt it.

Scraaaaaape.

No, no, no, no, no!

I remember pulling into the spot when I arrived and thinking how close the pole was to my car, as I carefully navigated around it to park. Unfortunately, I forgot it was there as I was leaving. It was too late before I realized what I had done, so I pulled back into the spot, got out of my car and braced myself for the damage.

At first, it looked like just a few gashes of white paint from the pole. But then I saw it. The gaping hole in the driver’s side door.

Seriously?

WHY?!

I’ve had this car for over 10 years and have never had to have body work done on it. Not once. It was 5:00 p.m. Where could I go? I knew my friend and our pastor, Ryan, would have a body shop recommendation from a buddy of his who works in the industry, so I called him first. The place he suggested was –like most other shops at that hour – closed.

I searched for body shops on Yelp! and saw that Ed’s Body & Paint Shop was a quarter-mile away.

In the first review, I saw the word “honest” and a closing time of 5:30, so off I went. I called the shop to give them a heads up, and when I arrived, Ed, who turned out to be the owner of the shop, came out to assess the damage. I was still shaken up at this point and in a reactive crying mode, so I rambled a bit and told him what had happened.

And then I paused for a second.

I’m okay though,” I said. At least I was okay. It could have been worse.

Ed walked me into his office to get my information and sat me down. Trying to calm my frazzled state, he told me how common this situation was. So often he has people come to him in a state of stress, frustration, fear, and worry. They go on and on about how awful it is that their cars are damaged. He said his kids did the same thing when they were growing up. “Oh dad, I can’t believe what happened. The car…”

He’d respond with, “How about you? Are you okay? We’ll fix the car. It’s just a car.”

He told me the story of a young girl came to his shop the other day in hysterics. She had damaged her car badly in an accident, and, then, while she was backing into the driveway, she popped a tire. “This is the worst day. What did I do to deserve this??” she lamented to Ed.

Ed paused and replied with compassion but a different perspective, “I have an idea. You know all those good days when the sun was shining and life was good? I bet you took them for granted.” It was a risky comment to make to an already agitated person.

The risk was worth it. He said it was as though he’d flipped a switch. Her entire demeanor changed.

He continued. “You wake up and expect every day to be perfect, and when it’s not, it’s the worst day.”

“You know, you’re right,” she said. “I don’t stop to smell the roses. I do expect the day to go perfectly. I don’t appreciate the good days.” With a lifted mood, she gave Ed a hug before she left, and walked out with a new perspective on life.

He brought the conversation back to my situation, seeing that I was still upset about what had happened to my car. “If you think you’re having a bad day, I’ve got something to show you.” Ed pulled up a message on his phone about his uncle’s wife Janet. And then he told me this story.

She came home from the hospital at 4:00 a.m. and asked her husband to lie down with her. ‘Hon, would you rub my back?’ So he did. ‘Oh that feels so good,’ she said.”

By 5:00 a.m., Janet had passed away.

“This will be his first Christmas without her in 53 years. He saw the same face and held the same hands for 53 years, and now she’s gone. That’s a bad day.”

Yes, yes it is. It made my situation at the time seem trivial. Talk about perspective.

Ed apologized for being preachy, but I told him it was fine. I appreciate when people speak their truth, and I knew his intention was nothing but pure. I wanted him to say what he had to say. I just had to stay open to hearing the message. He went on to tell me why he has the perspective he does.

“Each day when I wake up, I thank God for another day. When I go to bed at night, I ask Him to look out for my family and the people I love. You know, I just try to live each day like it’s my last. And if the people you love have their health, you’re good. That’s what matters.”

He talked about wanting his four granddaughters (“my grandbabies”) to grow up in a world like he did, a world where people looked out for each other. “When you saw a kid with a scraped up knee on the sidewalk, you stopped to help him. You didn’t ignore him, stop to take pictures, or put it up on YouTube.”

Neighbors were neighbors and people took care of each other.

Ed told me several stories about how he takes care of the people who come to see him at the shop.

He told me about the single mom with two kids whose husband had just left her. She came to him in a panic because she’d gotten an estimate for $800 to replace her brakes. He looked at her car and the estimate, realized she was being scammed, and discovered all she needed were new brake pads. About 40 minutes and $56 later, she left with her car and her kids, feeling immensely grateful.

“I’m not in it for the money,” he said. “People seem to do everything for the money these days. Sure, I’ve got to charge enough to pay the people here, but I want to be able to go to bed at night knowing that I did right by people.”

We ended up chatting for an hour and a half. I left feeling about as peaceful as I had before the incident happened.

Even though it wasn’t part of my plan.

Even though it’s not how I anticipated my day would go.

Even though I have no idea how much money it’s going to cost to repair it.

But it’s just a car. It can be fixed. And I’m okay.

I feel like the whole thing was meant to be, like it had to happen.

I needed to hear that perspective and those stories. I needed to take a moment to pause and be grateful for all of the good days I have. And I have a lot of good days. So often, I stress about things that don’t really matter. I get worked up about things that will likely never happen five to ten years into the future. I focus on everything I didn’t start or finish or make time for and leave myself in a state of feeling guilty and inadequate more than I’d like to admit.

But, at the end of the day, I get to go home to my husband, spend time with my family, do work that I love, be surrounded by amazing community and friends, and have my health.

Sometimes we need moments like these to interrupt our lives and our plans, to shake us up a bit, and to remind us of the privilege it is to be alive and to be given another day on this beautiful earth.

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10 Comments

  1. A good reminder as we enter into the holiday season. Thank you, Rachel!

    • Rachel Druckenmiller

      You’re welcome! It was a special day. Sometimes life surprises us with moments like there, and I’m learning how important it is to pay attention, so I don’t miss the lessons! Looking forward to seeing you in January!

  2. Rachel,

    This story is certainly food for thought. Thanks for sharing it, we often take too much for granted and don’t think about all of the many blessings that God gives us every day. May you and your family have a very Merry CHRISTmas and a very happy New Year.

    Blessings,
    Bobbie
    NCTA

    • Rachel Druckenmiller

      Bobbie, I’m so glad you took the time to leave me a note. I always love hearing from you. We do take a lot for granted. It’s so easy to do that, but I know God can get really creative with what He wants us to learn and notice, especially when it’s easier for us to ignore those little nudges. I hope you had a very Merry Christmas and I look forward to seeing you in January! 🙂

  3. Wanda

    Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story. I am crying while I am writing to you, so THANKFUL for my many blessings. Have a wonderful holiday.

    • Rachel Druckenmiller

      Oh I’m so glad it spoke to you, Wanda! It was a moment I knew I had to capture. I remember being about halfway through my visit with Ed thinking, “I needed this today.” And being surprisingly at peace with what happened from that moment on. Sending peace and joy to you in the new year!

  4. Michela

    I love Ed’s shop, they do great work and very pleasant to work with as you have found to be true as well. Glad you are okay!

    • Rachel Druckenmiller

      Oh that’s so good to hear! It’s there now getting all fixed up! 🙂

  5. Sharri

    Thank you for sharing your stories. It is wonderful to get a refreshed perspective! Happy Holidays!

    • Rachel Druckenmiller

      Oh you’re so welcome! I feel like they are given to me to be shared, so I’m glad they speak to you. Looking forward to seeing you in the new year! 🙂

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