Hello Dear Friends,
Today I was meeting with my friendly used-car dealer, since my beloved Honda, Hi-Ho Silver, is beginning to fail. She’s twelve years old, and has gotten me through some of the toughest times of my life. After my house burned down, she held everything I owned. She took me cross-country to New York and Washington State and points between. She got me There and Back Again.
And now it’s time to move on. When you lose everything, sometimes you get a little too attached to the few things you have left. An old mug, a plastic tray – these things take on so much significance. “This old t-shirt,” I’d sometimes think, “is so precious because it’s from ‘before,’ from my old life, from before the fire.” But really, it’s just an old t-shirt. So even though it’s a bit heart wrenching, it’s time to give up Hi-Ho Silver.
As we sat in the dealership waiting for paperwork to go through, I realized I didn’t have Silver’s title. It burned up along with all my other records; another thing that slipped through the cracks amidst the overwhelming myriad of details that follow a disaster. We called the DMV about getting another one, then sat looking at each other while we waited for my loan to be approved.
“So,” he said, filling time with small talk, “Your house burned down. That’s gotta be tough.” “Yes,” I said, “But there was a lot of good that came from it. In fact, I recently did a TED talk about all the good things that happened.” He frowned at me, “What possible good could come from such a terrible experience?” Before I could answer, my e-mail pinged, and I instinctively looked down and read the new message. I looked up at the dealer and said, “Let me read this to you, and I think you’ll understand.” Here are the exact words that were in front of me;
I read your blog and emails as part of my psychology class while visiting California this week for my sister’s funeral service. I can sincerely empathize with your feeling of sorrow and loss. Reading your experiences of loss and the comments from friends brought tears to my eyes as I feel the agonizing emotional pain in the inner depths of my being. May you find peace and strength through the kind and encouraging words of friends and strangers alike. God bless you and keep you strong and steadfast as you move forward in life. We love you. Ernie and Family.
The dealer asked, “Is that from a friend?” “No,” I said, “This was written to me by a total stranger.” “And someone in California assigned your blog to a psychology class?” he asked. “Yes, I guess so,” I said, “and it sounds like it’s helping him deal with his own grief.” The used-car dealer, probably a bit cynical by profession, gave me a huge grin. “That is really kinda cool,” he said. I smiled back. “It is indeed,” I said. “It is indeed.”
We all get cynical from time to time – caught up in bad news, in the stories of terrible people doing terrible things, in the little hurtful dramas and heartbreaks that comprise our daily life. Sometimes we lose faith in humanity, sometimes we simply think no one cares. Then out of the blue, a stranger says, “We love you.” Out of the blue, someone says, “You helped me,” and you forget your own loss, your own pain. For a moment, you feel like you’re gently holding the soft, sweet thread of the great web that holds all of us together. You feel your deepest heart, your true humanity. Lose your house – regain your faith in humanity. I’d say that’s a pretty good deal.
On Monday I pick up my new car. It’s a beautiful blue-green; the color of the Colorado summer sky, the color of the deep blue sea. I’ll give her a name, and oh, the places we’ll go…
Wishing You Sweet Dreams, Deep Faith, and Happy Travels,
On Stage at TEDx.