When I was 9 years old, my parents talked about something I thought we’d never have: a new 1957 Ford Fairlane. The advertising called it, “"A New Kind of Ford for '57…. with the Mark of Tomorrow." I could just imagine it with its futuristic look and that new car smell!
After my dad went to the dealerships in Gainesville and Starke he discovered it was just out of our price range. My dad paid cash for everything so getting a loan was out of the question. In looking back on it, I imagine that living through the Great Depression put him on a very conservative path with money.
Only a few days after my dad had got home from the dealerships and broke the bad news to us, a brand new ‘57 Ford Fairlane came flying into our restaurant parking lot. It was going so fast that dirt and gravel went everywhere when it came to an abrupt stop! The driver ran through the front door, slammed his car keys on the counter along with a big wad of cash and said, “You can have it all, my car and my cash!”
My immediate thought was, ‘This is GREAT! The good Lord has provided! We will have a new car and some cash to boot!”
Then I noticed the man didn’t look very good. In a pained voice he said, “I’ll give you my car, my money and everything I have if you PLEASE, PLEASE get me to a doctor! I feel like I’m going to die!”
Without any hesitation, Mom and Dad jumped into action. They carefully got him into our family car and took him to the local doctor’s office which was in Waldo, just a couple miles away.
Mom and Dad got back, they explained to me that the doctor thought this man had a bad case of food poisoning. The doctor was treating him and the man would be staying at the motel next door to his office, so the doctor could keep an eye on him.
After what I thought was a respectful moment I asked, “Do we get to keep the car and the money? That man said we could have it!!”
Dad told us that even though the man had said that we could have it all if we got him to a doctor, we would not be keeping the car or the money. “Ben, sometimes people say things when they are in a bad way that they would not say under normal circumstances,” Dad explained. “He was in pain and he would have said and done anything in that moment to make it stop.”
Dad went on to say, “I’m just not going to be the kind of person who takes advantage of someone who is in a bad place.” He continued, “So Ben, what kind of person do you want to be? The kind of person who profits at the expense of another person’s tragedy, or the person who helps people make it through their time of need?”
I really wanted us to have that new car so, for me a 9-year-old, this was quite a dilemma. But my upbringing kicked in and I said, “I want to help people.”
Over the next couple of days, my parents would often check on this man. After he recovered from his illness, they brought him back to our restaurant and gave him back his money and the keys to his car. As I saw the look of sheer gratitude of his face and heard the appreciative words that he spoke, something clicked for me. Yes - I had told my Dad what I thought he wanted to hear - that I wanted to help people. But now, I really felt it in my heart and it made me happy that we had done the right thing.
That day, I learned who I wanted to be and, in that, I received another piece of Waldo Wisdom. In lifting someone up - you are lifted up, too.