Last week, I had some car trouble and had to call for a tow truck. I have an older car and as I was waiting on help to arrive, I was thinking about how much the repair was going to cost and praying it wouldn’t be a budget buster.
In my rearview mirror, I noticed two men “panhandling” by the road. I will be the first person to admit that whenever I see people asking for handouts beside the road, I’m suspicious. I’ve heard too many stories of people living like kings on the goodwill of others and I’ve been hustled more than once by a convincing sob story that turned out to be false. Inevitably, though, I ended up chatting with both men as I waited.
They were a father and son. Their reasons for being on the streets were different, but neither surprising. The father said he lost just about everything in a divorce. (I’m sure there was more to the story than that, but we didn’t get into details.) The son had been a coal miner, but got laid off. He said he was trying to convince his father to leave West Virginia because there was nothing here for him now.
We’ve just come through a primary election and a lot of people were proudly stating how much they “support coal” and other rhetoric that doesn’t mean much. I only heard one politician say anything about supporting coal miners. Unfortunately, he didn’t win his primary; I think he would have been a real bonus for the state.
Once the tow truck driver finally arrived, we talked as he drove me and my car to the garage. He was a happy guy, working his tail off on the evening shift. He mentioned his wife was home sick, recovering from cancer. The recovery from the radiation and chemotherapy treatments was worse than the cancer itself. She was laid up in bed and might never recover fully, he said. He was working, taking care of her and their four kids with help from a neighbor when he was at work.
By the time I got home, my worries about my car repair bill were meaningless. I have a car. I was thankful for everything around me. I have a home, a healthy, happy family and work to do. Sometimes it just takes a little perspective to remember what’s really important..