Monday, October 26, 2009

Luck or Providence

roadsideIt was the summer of 1990 and Iraq had just invaded Kuwait, although we didn't know it at the time. We had been camping in the mountains of Colorado for the past week with our Youth Group from church. Real camping--no radios, no TV, no newspaper. Just tents, sleeping bags, lanterns, our Bibles and beauty of the Colorado mountains just outside of Leadville (elevation 10,152 feet).

We were on our way home and as we neared Hays, KS, we suddenly lost power steering. It didn't take us long to discover we had thrown a belt on the van we were driving. Our caravan consisted of five 15-passenger vans at capacity and we were about five miles from town. We split the kids up into the remaining four vans and headed into Hayes in hopes of finding a replacement belt.

We pulled off I-70 at the first exit and found a convenience store that just happened to be right across the street from a service station. Sadly however, the station was closed. Now, at this time, there wasn't much in Hays. It's been years since I've been through there, so that may have changed, but at this particular time, our choices were the moment looking non-existent. We figured we might as well get something to drink, grab a local phonebook and start looking for garages that might have a replacement fan belt.

As we entered the store, I glanced at the headlines of the paper on the rack next to the cashier. "Bill! Iraq invaded Kuwait," I shouted to one of the other Youth sponsors. The cashier look at me with a puzzled look and said, "Where have you guys been? On a mountain somewhere? They did that yesterday!" "Matter of fact," I answered, "We have. In fact, we're on our way home and we've shredded the belt on our van. Any chance you know who owns the garage across the street?" "Yeah," the cashier replied flatly, "but Ron closed around 4:00; he closes early on Friday afternoons. Won't be back 'til tomorrow morning." Not what we wanted to hear...and then it happened.

As we stood there trying to decide our next move, a vehicle pulled up into "Ron's" garage, and a man we assumed to be Ron, walked over to the huge sign at the edge of the property and began to change the gasoline prices. We ran across the street...hoping...praying. Seems Ron figured with all that fighting in the oil countries, he stood to make a little profit, he told us. "What can I do for ya?" he finally asked. "We need a belt like this for our van that's sitting on I-70," someone stated holding out what was left of our shredded fan belt. "'Fraid I'm not going to be able to help ya," Ron said. "That's a Dodge belt and we don't carry that size. Everybody 'round here drives Fords."

"Could you at least look?" we asked, actually more begged. "Won't do any good," he said, "but I'll look." As we walked into the garage, we noticed the parameter of the building was lined with belts of all sizes and shapes. Ron explained: "Ya see, you need a "such-and-such" size belt and we just don't stock those. It's kind of an odd size." Looking up at one area of the wall, he continued, "If I did have one, it would be...right..." There was a long pause, then Ron nearly whispered: "There." Our eyes followed Ron's and hanging there all by itself on the wall was a belt. Our belt. "Well I'll be danged!" Ron exclaimed. "I've never stocked that size or style belt! How in the heck did that get there?!" "It was probably my part-time help," he said as he grabbed a long stick to retrieve the belt. "I had him do the ordering last week, and he must have ordered the wrong one."

"No," someone said. "He ordered the right one."

We paid Ron, left him scratching his head about the belt and counting his gasoline profits. We all piled into the vans, made the trip back out to our stranded van and a short time later, we were heading back home...with our new belt that Ron normally doesn't stock. We know Who was really doing the ordering the previous week...and He works full-time.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What Will People Remember

mark-don-melI got the news this afternoon: a friend from High School had died. We were in the same graduating class and had gone to school together since grade school. We were in band together- she played the flute, I played the drums. We liked some of the same music/artists, one in particular: Grand Funk. For her birthday (I think) I drew a poster of Mark, Don and Mel. She loved it and told me she'd keep it so that one day when I became a famous graphic artist, she could tell everyone she had a "Keith Original." I never became famous, but at our last reunion, she told me she still had the poster...after over 30 years!

After I hung up the phone, I wondered about her. What had she been doing all these years? We saw each other at the class reunions, but like lots of High School classmates, we really hadn't kept in touch over the years. How many children did she have? What kind of work did she do? What hobbies did she have? Where did she go to church? Was she happy? Did she have lots of friends? Why?...just why?

I didn't know the answer to those questions. So...I thought about the things I did know, the things I remember:

  • We laughed a lot during those years; she had an infectious laugh.
  • She was a good friend. I'm glad I got to know here during those years.
  • She was one of the first females to go through the Drafting program at the local Vo-Tech. That was a big deal back in the 70s. I remember talking to her about it and how she was apprehensive and yet, determined at the same time. She made it through the program just fine.
  • She was the FFA Queen our Senior year. Don't why I remember that; I wasn't even in FFA.

Thinking about her death, made me think about my own. Let's face it, one of these days, we're all going to come to the point in this journey. One of my favorite songs by Grand Funk is "Closer to Home." Each day we're getting closer to "home." What will people remember about me when I'm gone? Was I a good friend? Will they remember the funny stuff? Was I a good husband, a good father? Life goes by pretty fast. I hope I'll leave some good memories behind...In the meantime, there are some areas I need to work on NOW, while I have the time.

Thanks for the good memories, Marci.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


I don't fly very often, only when my job requires it. I really don't like flying--on commercial airlines that is. I have a couple of friends that own small airplanes and I enjoy flying with them, but that's different...mainly because I don't have to deal with other passengers.

airline_passengersLast week I had to fly to Houston for a 3-day conference. Southwest Airlines flies from Tulsa to Houston non-stop, which made it nice not having to switch planes, etc which would have been required flying with the other airlines. I just wanted to get on the plane and get there. Another thing about Southwest is they don't have assigned seating. You just board and pick a seat; at least that way you don't have to sit by someone that looks creepy.

Besides the creepy looking passengers, I also like to avoid the ones that look "chatty." I don't know what it is about being on an airplane, but I really don't want to be bothered when I'm flying. I don't like the close quarters, and I particularly don't care for the smell of onions belching from the breath of the person next to me as they let me--and all the other passengers--know they are on their way to [fill in city] to watch her son/daughter/niece/nephew/grandchild compete in the "America Has Only Three Talented People" competition "and my [relative] is currently in the lead! They're gonna win!!! All the other competitors suck!"

I like to find someone that is ALREADY reading a book or sleeping OR has the most disgusted look on their face that says: "Don't speak to me" and I plop down beside them. Mumbling a quick "hello," I stow my carry-on, insert the earbuds, turn on my iPod, and turn to the bookmarked page of the novel I've brought along for this very purpose. It makes flying tolerable and it seems to work out pretty well.

Now if we could just figure out how to deal with passengers that think the plane seat is a Lazy-Boy-RECLINER!!! I seem to always get stuck behind that clod."