Thursday, October 6, 2011

When gratitude is expensive

If you've never wondered how to drive from the boondocks of Federal Way to downtown Seattle without taking the freeway and how long this route takes at a speed of 30 mph, neither had I.  Until last night.    

Ricardo's red Jetta alerts us with a jerking motion.  An unsettling sound, like a ball cranking over and and over, whacking the ground.  My car knowledge extends so far as the yellow "Maintenance Required" button near my dashboard, the feeling of a tire gone flat, the squeal of a bad belt, the smell of oil or rubber burning.  Beyond that, I'm really no help at all.  Ricardo, thankfully, he knows his car stuff, and I know by the focused, hush-hush way he tunes into his car and the subsequent groan that something is wrong.    He's had this car for all of one week and I can feel his elation deflate as the lurching and noise continue.   

We stop at his friend's house and he stands outside as his friend drives it forward and back, testing the brakes.  I watch as the whole frame of his car seems to shift forward and hug his front wheel.  They speak rapidly in Spanish and I can't make out what they were saying but I understand "caro."  Expensive.  Ricardo and I get back in and he drives slowly, careful not to break suddenly or bounce over bumps.  We stop at a gas station and he calls a mechanic who advises him not to take the freeway.  Go slow, he says, or the system holding the front wheels in place could slide off and the car take a nosedive.  It's a good thing this didn't happen on the freeway, he says.  That could have been a bad accident.  

I watch Ricardo and I'm amazed.  He's frustrated, of course, disappointed.  He's worked so hard to get these wheels, this freedom he gave up two years ago, endured long bus commute after bus commute, building his business again from the ground up.  I watch as he shrugs - "What can I do?" - not casually, but with gracious acceptance.  Not one to bemoan his problems, I marvel at how he just faces them head on, finding something positive each time.  It's a huge part of how he's gotten as far as he has today.  I don't know what else to do to support him, beyond a heartfelt, "I'm really sorry you have to deal with this," so I just thank God out loud for both of us.  For keeping us safe, for loving us.  I ask God to provide for Ricardo in a huge way, a way that lessens his expense.  And then I thank him, because he asks us to put our trust in him without first seeing what that's going to look like.  It's what I read that morning all blurry-eyed and tired before work began.  To thank God for whatever circumstances the day may hold, this is a discipline I'm still breaking into.  

I fight sleep for much of the journey, but in the last stretch of backroad, I surrender at Ricardo's encouragement.  In case you're now wondering, the trip takes roughly an hour and a half.  On I-5 it takes no more than 30 minutes.   I awake in downtown as Ricardo's parking the car, grateful just to be together.  


  1. Ok- so what happened? What is the end of the story?!!! ; )

  2. That's really the end of the story... :-) Well, the end-end is that Ricardo takes his car to the mechanic and it's still in the shop getting worked on. Expensive, for sure, but God provided a good mechanic who is charging Ricardo very minimal fees for his labor.