Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Don't Let the Paint Job Fool You

My Gran had this car when I was a little girl; on the outside it was big and green and shiny and Gran took very good care of it. Grandpa was a mechanic in the war so he kept the engine running very smoothly. On the outside it looked just like every other car in the city.

On the inside it STUNK! It stunk like the guy who tightened the last bolt on the assembly line crawled into the backseat for a nap and died! That's not even accurate, it smelled like my garage the year we left for 2 weeks holidays in July and forgot a bag of garbage, leaving it to fester in record breaking, stifling temperatures. The stench was powerful like running over a skunk, it followed you, burnt your nostrils and attached itself to your hair and clothes.

Today, one of my kids would have jumped into that car and cried out "HOLY COW! WHAT'S THAT SMELL?!?!?!?!!!!!!" But I was raised in the 'children seen not heard era' I held my breath for as long as I could, breathed through my nose when I was incapable of carrying on any longer, and leaped from my seat to the fresh air the instant the PRNDL hit park!

I worked up the nerve to ask one day about the smell. It seems that Gran was the victim of a leaky carton of milk from the Publix, that emptied completely into the carpet floor of her car while she nipped into the liquor store for Grandpa. It was July, in the days before Oxyclean and Febreeze.

The remarkable thing about my Gran's car was that for as great as it looked, there was a reality that couldn't be disguised. 
Gran's car taught me that just because something looks good to the outside world does not mean the people inside aren't suffering (even with a pine scented air freshener hanging on the rear view mirror). We would have suffered a lot less in that car if Gran had let us roll the windows down. We also would have been revealing our plight with the outside world so the windows stayed up.

The further I get on in life, the more people I am exposed to, the greater I understand that it's not just my Gran's car that stunk. Everybody has a stench they are coping with. Some houses stink and credit ratings stink, some jobs stink, and marriages, and family relationships, a lot of parenting stinks, health stinks and dependencies stink.

I am also learning that I have the greatest appreciation for people who drive around with their windows down and the music turned up. People who are not hiding that life is not perfect but are willing to make the best of the situation.

Spend some moment everyday in reflection of gratitude and happiness. Even if the time found is standing in line for coffee...use is wisely.