We live in a throwaway culture nowadays.
We buy a new appliance every time one breaks, trade in our cars for something newer and shinier if repairs are needed, and purchase a new model of our perfectly good phones yearly simply because we can. But last week, I met a gentleman who has made me look at things in a different light.
As I was passing by a neighbour’s house, I saw a gentleman outside buffing his car with a cloth.
“Beautiful car!” I called out without stopping.
Now this gentleman was obviously proud of his car, and wasn’t about to let me get away that easy.
“She’s a 1952!” he beamed. “I picked her up at the factory in Oshawa, Ontario 64 years ago.”
It took me a second to compute what he was saying. If he picked her up in 1952…
“You have had this car that whole time?”
“Oh yes! She was my first love. I took a bus to Oshawa, bought the car, and then went to pick up my friend in Michigan, who came out of the bus station, walked straight over to the car, put his hand on the hood and said, ‘Hello Mabel!’. So from then on that’s what we called her!”
I commented that he must have been an excellent driver, because the car was in pristine condition. He told me she once had her hood bent in, but it was fixed, and that there were several paint dings that had been carefully repaired.
He went on to tell me about the road trip he and his friend took around the states in that car. How he picked up his wife for their first date in that car, then they drove to their Californian honeymoon in that car. Two of his boys came home from the hospital as newborns in that car, then later even used the car on their wedding days. He and his wife drove to their 50th wedding anniversary celebration in that very same car. When his wife died two years ago, the two of them took one last ride together when he drove out to scatter his love’s ashes, in that car.
Mabel has lived a lifetime of memories.
We chatted for a few more minutes before I walked on, and as I went on my way the conversation stuck with me, and made me think about how we tend to treat our possessions, our ‘things’, and even our relationships with such a cavalier attitude – writing someone off after a simple disagreement, or giving up on a friend when one of you moves away. Sure, confrontation when you’ve been hurt can be tough. Trying to schedule a phone call with someone in a different time zone is difficult. Both are time consuming, and, some might argue, not worth it.
But look at Mabel. This man has had the same car for 64 years. He has taken care of her, cleaned her, oiled her, buffed her and shined her over and over again. He has fixed her dents and scratches and painstakingly painted over her chips. He has made her absolutely shine. When she could have easily turned into an old clunker destined for the scrap yard, she has instead become infinitely more beautiful with age.
What if we treated our relationships like this gentleman treated Mabel?
Putting our heart and soul into them. Nurturing them. Fixing every problem, healing every chip. Not throwing them away for something newer, better or easier, but holding tight to what we have until we make it shine. I think we would be rewarded with friendships, marriages and families that become more beautiful the older they get.