Sitting there looking down the table at my children, their friends and my family, I found it hard to sum up my day. Then a stranger came up and sang “Happy Birthday” to me and suddenly my day made sense.
See, I woke up this morning thinking that it was hard to believe that I am another year older. The reality that today is another day of the same old stuff and I am older hung over my head. The reality show that we filmed is once again airing today for the world to see, my deadline for this column was looming over my head and I have sat staring at a blank page for the past two nights trying to get inspired.
I spent most of the morning trying to figure out the meaning of life when I decided to take my lunch break and drive. How ironic that after spending all these years driving carpools that I find that the best way for me to clear my head is to drive. My drive lasted all of three seconds before my car sputtered and died. “Okay God, is this really going to happen?” I got out of the car and noticed a long, black belt hanging out from underneath it. I know enough to know that anytime you lose a belt it means you are not going anywhere. I sat on the curb for a minute trying to decide how on earth this story was going to end. Is this one final challenge as I end my 41st year or is this a sign of what turning 42 has in store for me?
A co-worker had the name of a mechanic who would come to my office where my car was and put a new belt on it for me right in the parking lot. The only thing was I had to go pick up the belt. A friend came and to me to get the belt which I never imagined could be so tricky We finally got it and met the mechanic in the parking lot. He took one look at the car and said, “I can’t fix that and I don’t take checks”. So my friend and I hop back in the car and the mechanic, who couldn’t fix the car, follows us to the bank to get some money for telling me he can’t fix it. Again I’m thinking, “God, is this enough yet?”
I get back to the office and call AAA for a tow truck. They tell me it will be an hour. I know the kids are getting restless waiting for me to get home and I can’t even begin to think how long this will take. From inside the building I can hear a rumble. It gets louder and closer. I figured that it has got to be the tow truck even though it has been less than 10 minutes since I called.
I rush outside and stop dead in my tracks. Rumbling before me is the largest tow truck I have ever seen with the name of it written across it in big white letters. I started laughing. The name of the tow truck was “The Happy Hooker.”
I’m starting to think God must have a sense of humor. The tow truck driver hops out with a big smile and introduces himself as Tim. Within minutes the car is hooked up and I climb into the “Happy Hooker” as we head to the mechanics. “Tow Truck Tim” listened to me vent most of the ride there. I was in between laughter and tears as I gave him the Cliffs Notes version of my day. At one point I said, “I’m sorry to dump this on you.” He laughed and said, “That’s my job, tow truck driver/social worker.”
We laughed for a bit about other things that life throws at us and then we came up to an intersection. Looking out the window I saw balloons and flowers marking the spot of where just days before a horrific crash had taken place and taken some precious lives. Tim the Tow Truck driver was quiet for a minute and said those are the times that this job is so hard. When he gets called to tow away the car where someone has lost their life. We drove on to the auto repair store and as we pulled in, I told him thank you. I told him that somehow a car that needs repairs seems very trivial in light of what could have been.
I smiled and thanked him for showing me that a broken down car is really not that bad. He looked at me and said, “I obtained my three goals for today. I towed your car, I made you laugh and I made you smile.” Then he unhooked my car and with that, Tim and the “Happy Hooker” tow truck drove away.
But the story doesn’t stop there. The shop that someone referred me too was run by a man named Tim. Even though it was closing time, he was waiting there for me. What is the saying? Somehow we are all separated only by six degrees of separation? It ends up my Dad coached little league over 30 years ago when Tim was playing. His brother was my brother’s best friend growing up. He lived one street over and he used to walk over and play ball with our neighbor. I mean it was just bizarre how many ways we had crossed paths over the past 40 years.
That night at dinner I shared the story with my family. Everything from the moment I woke up dreading the day and thinking it is just the same old thing. I told them about the Happy Hooker and all that I learned from Tow Truck Tim. As we were sitting there talking about things, a man walked up and asked us whose birthday was it. The kids all pointed to me and then the man sang “Happy Birthday” to me in the most beautiful voice. He said, “Today is a great day for celebrations.” “Our friends over there are 93 and celebrating their 63rd wedding anniversary, my wife and I are celebrating our 47th wedding anniversary (with a grin and a wink he says, “and 20 of those have been happy) and you are having a birthday.” I couldn’t have agreed more.
I think everyone of us at times feels the way that I felt this morning. Then something happens or someone crosses your path that makes you stop, makes you smile and makes you laugh and see that things really aren’t that bad. As that man stood there and sang Happy Birthday to me, I realized that each and every day that we wake up, we can be sure that life will certainly never, ever be just like it was the day before.