When Steve asked me to drive because he’d been driving so much that day, I was glad to. He said, “Which car? Yours or mine?”
My unusual reply, “Yours,” set the direction of the evening. As I pulled into the church parking space, I heard a screech of metal as my front right fender scraped the fender of a red Mustang parked there. I backed out and went to another spot. I was sick at heart.
I wanted to say that his car is longer in front than mine, and that the other car was at least six inches over the line into my space, but I didn’t. I knew excuses would make no difference. It was totally my fault.
People come to our church on Wednesday evenings for a free meal. They do not also need to have their cars damaged while they are there! But I’d done it and had to follow through.
Inside, at our Bread of Life Cafe, I went from table to table, chatting with our guests and asking if anyone drove a red Mustang. A portly older gentleman named David spoke up. “I do,” he said, a bit fearfully. I assured him he’d done nothing wrong and admitted what had happened.
“Oh, don’t worry about it,” he said. “It’s old and already has scratches and dents.” But I insisted, so when he’d finished eating, we went out to look at it together. We both wondered where the yellow paint came from when my black car scraped his red car. Perhaps an earlier color for the Mustang? We didn’t know. He said it was a 1993 model. Too old and too new to be worth much.
I told him to get two or three estimates and I’d write him a check the next Wednesday. We exchanged phone numbers.
The following week, he was in line for food when I first saw him. I walked with him in line and chatted about his estimate. He’d gone to a dealership and the guy there had sent him to a place that does good work and his only estimate was from there. It seemed reasonable to both of us. I told him I’d write a check to the body shop and he said he’d prefer I write it to him personally. I explained that an insurance person had told me long ago that I should make it to the repair shop and he got very huffy.
“I told you to forget it, but you wouldn’t. So let’s just go through your insurance, then,” he said. “You call them and you give me their number and I’ll call them and work it out.”
“But remember about my deductible?” I asked. “The work on your car is less than my deductible, so it wouldn’t do any good to file. I’d still have to pay it.” I was thinking that he simply wanted the money for himself and perhaps wouldn’t even get the car fixed.
We’d gotten to the head of the line and he needed to get his food. He looked at me directly and said, “Just pray about it.” That took me aback, for sure.
But I took his advice. As I sat there with my eyes open, inwardly praying, I realized the situation. It wasn’t that he wanted the money; he needed the money.
I got out my checkbook and wrote him a check for the amount. After he’d eaten and our devotional time was over, I saw him leaving the building. I went to him and handed him the check. “Here,” I said. “I made it out to you.”
“I was going to the car to get the estimate,” he said. We walked together to his car and he showed me the very detailed estimate.
He just stood there, looking at the check. He looked at me, shaking his head. “This is a gift from God,” he said. “I’m being evicted tomorrow, and I can’t tell you how much I need this money. I still want to get my car fixed, but for right now I need the money more.”
“So you’re blessed because I hit your car?” I said. Smiling, he agreed.
“But I just realized I misunderstood the amount you said. I still owe you $10.16,” I said.
Smiling again, he shook his head. “Just count that as my payment for all the meals I’ve eaten here.”
And I realized that he meant it. It’s hard to always take and not be able to give in return. So I thanked him and we hugged there in the parking lot. Later I talked to the family he’d eaten with that evening, and he had told them about being evicted. He lives only on his Social Security and just can’t stretch it far enough for all his expenses.
I don’t know much more about David than that, but I do know one thing. He was really glad I’d hit his car.
God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding. (Job 37:5)