The Greasy Good Samaritan and His Gift of Grace

A Sip of Honey Wine

Every spring we hold a giant yard sale.  It is a rite-of-spring that has become a family tradition.  It is a rather dubious venture as I will explain.  But this year something special happened.  I got a real bonus from our yard-sale.  I met a genuine, dyed-in-the-wool Good Samaritan – right in my own back yard.

The primary purpose of our dubious annual yard sale is to sell all of the items that we have purchased from other yard sales all year long.  These are things that we purchased because of some urgent, inexplainable impulse.  In a weak moment, while driving around the county, some mystical force urges us to slam on the brakes and stop at every yard sale that we encounter. 

We buy things that we do not need and will never use.  This little scenario repeats itself many times during the yard sale season.  This means that every year we compile a large inventory of “stuff.”  Fran calls this stuff “treasure” and I call it junk.  I figure that, on average, we pay about three dollars for each treasure that we haul home.

The purpose of our annual yard sale is to get rid of all of the junk, sorry – treasure, that we purchased from other yard sales over the past year. We sell-off all of those three-dollar items that we purchased from other yard sales.  I figure that, on average, we get about a quarter for very item that we paid three dollars for.  The economics of the whole deal is ridiculous and defies all logic. 

But during this past year’s yard sale something really special happened.  It was an experience I think about often.  I met a Good Samaritan who showed me a perfect example of grace and a genuinely caring spirit.  My lessons from this encounter were priceless.

Now, arranging and preparing a yard sale is a tiring chore.  Setting up tables and carrying tons of boxes up the cellar steps is really hard labor.  We used to spend hours pricing each item with color-coded labels.  But we gave up on our pricing routine because anybody who comes to our yard sale never wants to pay more than a quarter – for anything.  We could offer a Ming Dynasty Vase and the highest offer would be a quarter.

Now, all this preparation for such little return usually conjures up a foul mood and leaves me exhausted.  This past yard sale was no exception.  On top of all of the hard labor setting up our Saturday yard sale, I discovered that my little blue pick-up truck would not start.  I affectionately call her “Old Nellie.”  She was parked in the back yard with the hood up.  During a lull in our yard sale activity I was standing there looking into the engine compartment totally perplexed that Old Nellie died on me.

I get easily perplexed by all things mechanical.  I was particularly upset because my old truck and I have a special bond.  She is loyal and hardly ever lets me down.  As I was standing there mumbling to myself a man stopped by in a dilapidated pick-up truck.  He got out of his truck to check our yard sale “treasures.”  Little did I know that he was about to give me a special gift – the gift of Grace.

Our visitor wore greasy jeans and a “T” shirt that was probably white in color when it was new.  Now, the shirt was totally awash in grease and oil.  It shimmered in the sunlight with a black, oily luminescence.

He made the rounds of our yard sale tables and apparently saw my plight and stopped by my truck for a visit.  We exchanged greetings.  I did not catch his name.  I was really glad to have another person join me in trying to figure out why Old Nellie would not come to life.  As he looked under the hood of my truck I had this comforting feeling that this man, by his appearance and attitude, probably knew a lot more about the mysteries and personalities of old pick-up trucks than I will ever be privileged to know.

After a moment he said, “I always carry my toolbox in my truck.  Mind if I give a try at fixing your problem?”  I agreed without hesitation.  He went to his truck and returned very shortly with a pair of pliers and two screw drivers.  Even with this very sparse collection of tools he had a look of total confidence.

He bent over the hood of the truck and at that same moment Fran called from across the yard and asked me to come and help one of our yard sale customers.  I excused myself from the Good Samaritan and went to assist Fran.  It was only a few minutes before I went back to the truck.

When I returned my Good Samaritan said, “Get in and give her a try.”  I jumped in and turned the key.  Old Nellie instantly revved back to life.  I was amazed. 

He nodded and gave a satisfied smile and put his tools back in his pocket.

I said, “I was only gone a minute.  What did you do?” 

He replied with a grin, “Oh, that’s a secret.  Even grease monkey’s have their secrets.  Let’s just say your old truck needed some tender-loving-care.”

In my gratitude for his help I blurted out, “What do I owe you?”

He quietly replied, “Oh, you don’t owe me anything.  When I come across somebody in life who is broken down my job is to get them going again.  I do not charge anything.  It is simply my way of giving back to life.  I am a rich man who has been given so much it is simply fair that I give some back.  It was my privilege to help you.”

I stammered, “Th -Tha- Thanks – thanks very much.”

He then nodded and walked back to his truck.  With a little wave and a smile he drove away and I have not seen him since.  I never did get his name.

I have thought much about my Good Samaritan’s act of kindness.  Here is a man, dressed in greasy pants and shirt, driving a dilapidated old truck – who claims to be a rich man.  Certainly, from what I could see he was not a man of material wealth.  Obviously, he must have been alluding to some other form of riches.

His job is to help people get on the road again if he finds them broken down.  He helps others because he has been given so much.  He asks nothing in return for his service.  What a remarkable example of grace.

That brief, Saturday morning encounter has raised a lot of questions in my mind about my own actions in life.

Do I always stop and help somebody who is broken down?  Of course, if you are talking about repairing a vehicle I will not be of much help.  But there are a lot of people who are broken down in many other ways.  I come upon them all the time.  Do I stop?  Do I show grace and a caring spirit?  Do I help them get on their way again?  Do I expect something in return for my help?  Do I want praise for my assistance?  Do I give back because God has given me so much?  Do I offer grace to all those I meet?  I continue to ponder these questions.

We live in a world that does not express much grace or common decency.  At least we seem not to be aware of grace because it is buried under piles of ungrace.  Thoughtfulness toward others is a virtue that often draws ridicule in our upside-down world.  That ridicule causes us to run from grace.

In our cynical, jaded and negative society it is often a stretch to experience grace.  Our sense of what is right and proper has been perverted.  It seems that grace has fallen out of fashion.

Growing up I was taught that grace is the unmerited love and favor of God toward human-kind.  I was also taught that we are agents of God’s grace.  We should carry our sense of what is right and proper into our daily lives.  We should help others who are distressed or in need.  You might say that we are commissioned to “pay grace forward.”

Since the visit of my Good Samaritan I have been on the alert to recognize those little acts of grace that surround us all of the time.  If we can look past the cynicism and pessimism of our times maybe – just maybe – we will discover that grace abounds.  Underneath all of the negativity grace prevails.  It may be experienced each day in many ways – little acts of kindness – a smile – carrying groceries for an older person. 

But we must be open and responsive to these life events.  We must strive to recognize them for what they are – grace – a portion of that unmerited love from God that may be delivered to us by another person – even the least likely of folks.

And now and then a greasy Good Samaritan may appear at a Saturday morning yard sale and help you get your truck going again.  He may also get a lot more going for you in your life. His simple act may cause you to ask a lot of questions about how much grace you are unleashing on the world.

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