She thanked me for the referrals. As I paid the bill, I said, "Kindness begets kindness."
by Marilyn Mackenzie
May 27, 2002
As my son commandeered the computer, I was forced to pick up pen and paper once more. I intended to write a short piece about my favorite auto mechanic, Rocky. But as my pen hit paper, I realized that my story was already taking on a life of it’s own. Does that ever happen to you? As my pen raced over the page, my mind was already at least 200 words ahead of the plume. I feared I'd never catch up and something would be lost in the process.
"Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Luke 6:38 NIV
Rocky was his name; auto mechanics was his game. But it wasn't a game for him. It was truly serious, a ministry almost. He was such an honest mechanic, and because of this he always had too many cars to repair. He also had trouble keeping mechanics at his shop because of this. Oh, he could pay them well. But they had to work non-stop all day except for lunch and coffee breaks. Many weren't used to the fast pace. Knowing that Rocky had threatened to retire soon, his regulars wanted to remain on his short list of people he would continue to help.
I first encountered Rocky when my car’s transmission was acting up. There were only two transmission specialty garages in my area. One calculated that a repair would cost about $450 and a rebuilt transmission about $1600. The other quoted $600 and $1800 for the same services. Since I drove a 1992 vehicle, possibly worth all of $3000 on a good day, repairs of that magnitude made no sense. Still, I hadn't had a car payment in 20 years and didn't want one. A friend at the newspaper suggested that I visit Rocky.
Rocky fixed my car for nothing. He disconnected an extra, unnecessary gear on my car. Repairing it, indeed, would have been costly. Disconnecting it took about 15 minutes, for which Rocky could have at least charged labor. He did not. He told me I might notice a slight change in my gas mileage and wished me a good day. I've not noticed much of a difference. Rocky instantly became my favorite mechanic.
I had to take my car to Rocky again last week because it was overheating. Unfortunately, I had no one to bring me back to my apartment while Rocky worked on my car. A taxi ride would have been $15. And Rocky had too many cars stacked up that day -–every day usually-- to drive me the 10 miles to my home. I asked if he could drop me at the library a few blocks away, which he cheerfully agreed to do.
As Rocky drove away, I realized two things. First, the library would not open for two hours. Secondly, the book I had brought to read and my writing journal were safely secured in the back seat of my car back at the garage. The garage was only a few blocks away, and if things had been normal, I could have trekked back there. Alas, things were not normal. I was recuperating from a knee operation. Standing for more than 10 minutes made me nauseous and the doctor’s orders were for one 10-minute walk per day.
Still, I wasn't about to be discouraged. Ahead lay a beautiful city park. I decided I could plop my bottom on a bench in one of the picnic pavilions while I waited for the library to open. Surely my purse held a pen and scrap of paper on which I could write. The sun shone brightly and the temperature was already over 80, but the breeze was gentle and pleasant.
When I reached the picnic pavilion, I noticed some activity nearby. "Rather odd," I thought, "for 8 a.m. mid-week." Soon I discovered why. A cheerful, outgoing woman about 35 years of age approached my hideaway.
"Hi," she said. "I'm Janice."
"Nice to meet you, Janice. I'm Marilyn."
"Marilyn, do you have some free time? I sure could use some help."
Janice shared that in just three hours about 330 hungry and active 6th graders would descend upon that picnic pavilion expecting to be fed and entertained. It was the day of their 6th grade party, which always happened on the next to the last day of school. Parents had volunteered to help – 20 of them – but only two had arrived and Janice was already in panic mode.
I asked what I could do sitting down because of my knee, and was soon stuffing cookies into sandwich bags. Later, I stuffed pickles into plastic bags as well, then as the day progressed, I stuffed hot dogs into buns.
Once the kids arrived, I handed out bags of chips to each one. (As an aside...of the over 300 kids, plus teachers, teacher’s aides, and administrators, only one small boy smiled at me and said, "thank you." The others, I guess, expected the PTA to perform as usual.)
A separate story could be written about the difference in kids from 6th grade from when I was there in May of 1964 and these 6th graders. The dress I wore to my 6th grade party was quite different than the garb of these young people.
I was also intrigued by the differences in the levels of maturity in these individuals – physical, emotional and intellectual maturity levels. What a challenge it must be to teach children this age! In my 6th grade there were only two girls who were fully developed. In today’s 6th grade, there was only a handful who had not. My how times have changed!
But, the title of this story is "Multiplying Kindness."
Rocky did business each and every day with integrity and kindness.
I was so happy to have my car (and my wallet) in such capable hands that I was willing to help with that wild 6th grade party.
The principal was so impressed and inspired that a stranger with no children in her school was willing to help, that she ran off to rent a cotton candy machine for an extra treat for her kids.
The "moon-walk" owner was so amazed at what the few volunteers who had shown up had been able to accomplish in getting a meal ready for over 300 people, and at the camaraderie he observed, that he gave the kids two extra hours of time for free.
There were eventually about 8 or 10 volunteers in attendance, not the 20 who had promised to help. When they were no longer needed, two wandered off to the library where they volunteered to help with the book sale going on.
Rides were offered to me by three others, but I chose to wait at the library until my car was finished.
At 1:30 p.m., I called the garage from the library. The office manager told me she would pick me up outside in ten minutes.
When Kathy arrived, she was singing. Her response to my inquiry about her cheerfulness was, "job security." Curious, I asked her to explain, and she did.
People I had met that day – three from the park and two from the library – had called for repair appointments already.
Back at the shop, Kathy thanked me for the referrals. As I paid the bill, I responded, "Kindness begets kindness."
"Amen," she said as she drew a heart on my receipt, then turned to answer the ever-ringing phone.
"You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late." Ralph Waldo Emerson