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From the Underside of a Car

As many of my readers know, I teach on occasion for the University of Phoenix and Northern Arizona University.  I’ve had the great good fortune to stay in touch with many of my students through the years.  One such former MBA student and I are trying out the Google+ technology, along with about 1 million other early technology adopters.  On one of his posts the other day I saw a very simple, black & white photo of a business colleague of his with a wide, welcoming smile and a casual posture.  My former student, Joshua Russo, provided this comment:

“Tony runs a community oil change service. Four Saturdays per year widows, single moms, and wives of deployed soldiers from the local area can come to the church parking lot to have their oil changed and their cars checked out by Tony’s crew of about 50 volunteers. Car mechanic with clientThough he commands the crew with authority (“Josh, don’t you have any cars to work on that you’re wandering around taking pictures?”), he’s about as sweet a guy as you could hope to meet.”

Intrigued I asked Joshua to comment further on his observation about the good work that his colleague, Tony, is doing.  Below is Joshua’s response:

“Tony’s been at this for many years now, and the main thing I see are people who want to help those in need rather than telling them how they should live. That said, I think the relative leanness of recent years in the U.S. has bred some much-needed humility in my own life and, by observation, the lives of many around me. I think many of us are seeing the reality of our privilege much more clearly.

It’s sobering to realize how little control we really have. And even more sobering to realize in the midst of what feels like a challenging situation that we still have countless advantages compared to many… who lack deeply supportive communities of friends and family, instant access to technology and transportation, secure living environments, or even an able body, not to mention a name-brand education and marketable skills.

Which has nothing to do with me changing oil. I joined Tony’s crew shortly after declining a relocation offer from my former employer to instead move to a new city to be closer to family. Oddly, it wasn’t until my job search stretched more than twice a long as I had, um… “planned” before my perspective really began to shift.

And through that time, and the year+ since I’ve been with my current employer, oil changes have been a consistent gentle reminder of what I’ve learned. So, I keep at it. Because it helps a little. Because I can (and could, even when I was out of work). And because it’s fun. I work on late model BMWs and 12-year-old Geo Prisms with four bald tires. I happen to know that the BMW owner is a grandma who’s both a widow and “Mom” to a couple of grandkids, but even before I knew that, I didn’t care. I’ve lost some of my ability to make assumptions about people, which is, I hope, a truer meaning of charity than I’ve ever experienced. And I know my experience is not unique.”

I’d love for Joshua to be a regular contributor to this news/blog.  I think we all have something to learn from his point of view…..”from the underside of a car.”