Think Thank

"Hey, Karl, can you park your car again in the Alumni Antique Car Show?" Linda asked.

"Sure," I said, "assuming I can crank the handle fast enough and get it started! I haven't driven it since the show last year."

Although the comment about getting it started was only a joke, when I tried to fire it up, I wasn't laughing. The engine coughed, then went quiet. It would only be coaxed alive with cables. Even so, the dashboard stubbornly illuminated the warning, "Gen."

Having the mechanical aptitude of Paris Hilton, I called my friend Dallas. "I'm on my way to Big Cheese Pizza. I'm driving the Ford because I wanted to run it through the carwash before the show this weekend, but it wouldn't start. I jumpstarted it, but now the generator light is on. You think that's a problem?"

"You're probably OK," Dallas replied.

The six-mile trip to the other side of town provided ample time to ponder my problems. This car is a pain. It's a maintenance nightmare, a heap of junk, a useless boat that hogs space in the garage. I need to sell it. What if the generator light stays on forever?

My carping continued until I arrived at the Big Cheese drive-thru. When the kid working the window saw me, he leaned forward and gasped, "Whooooooooa!"

"I'm here to pick up two olive pizzas for Haf—"

"A ’64, isn't it?"

"Huh?" The kid confused me. By now he was hanging out the window as if he was about to upchuck.

"This is the XL Galaxie with the leather interior and electric seats, right?"

"What? Oh, the car? Ah, yeah, my grandpa bought it new. It's always been kept in a garage."

"You are soooooo lucky. That's got the 391 under the hood, doesn't it?"

"Um, ah, yeah…a 391, 392, 393,…something like that."

For five minutes the kid rattled off numbers about my car that only Ford engineers who get paid loads of money should know. I was waiting for him to recite the VIN.

"I'm restoring a ’72 Impala right now, but it's nothing like yooooooouuuur car."

I couldn't think of what to say (except "Could you get my stinkin' pizza before it freezes!") I could only marvel at his marveling.

Next, I went to the carwash. While the suds swirled around me, the recent conversation echoed in my mind.

It is a nice car, I mused. My mind detoured through many chapters of my childhood with the "Ol' Gal." I thought of grandpa piling us into the Ford to hit A&W Root Beer. I remembered playing for hours with the electric seats. I smiled at the memory of my brothers stumping everyone when they hid in the Ford's trunk during a game of hide-and-seek.

Then I thought of college days. My first date with Cherié, our honeymoon, our first kiss, (not necessarily in that order) all happened in the Ford. I found myself transported into the delicious world of nostalgia.

Had someone approached me in that moment and said, "I'll give you a million dollars for your car," you know what I'd have said?

"Show me the money!" (I mean, it's a nice car and all, but with a million bucks I could always buy another one!)

My greed notwithstanding, I did think about how easy it is to skimp in the thankfulness department. Hearing someone else's perspective reminded me of a blessing I enjoy.

Whether it's a Christian education, a Pathfinder Camporee, a warm house or a ripe peach—it's easy to take these and a billion other blessings for granted.

Ellen G. White counsels, “We need to cultivate a spirit of cheerfulness…. Let us ever look on the bright side of life and be hopeful, full of love and good works, rejoicing in the Lord always. ‘Let the peace of God rule in your hearts,’ and ‘be ye thankful’ (Colossians 3:15).”*

So open your eyes and thank God for the luxuries of life. You may just see things you hadn't noticed before.

By the way, when I finally opened my eyes in the carwash, I noticed the "Gen" light was off!

* Ellen G. White®, That I May Know Him (Hagerstown: Review & Herald Publishing Association®, 1964), 225.

Featured in: November 2007


Karl Haffner

Walla Walla University Church senior pastor, 1997–2007