The 1950 Chevrolet Deluxe weaved in and out of Havana traffic on an uncomfortably hot and muggy summer afternoon. The driver looked over at me sitting and sweating in the passenger seat. Then he reached up toward an eight-inch circular fan that was bolted above the rear view mirror. The electric cord trailed down a couple feet below where it disappeared into the dash. The driver flipped a switch on the fan and it began to hum and puff. Then he chuckled the only two English words I heard from him all day: “Air conditioning!”
One of the most amazing and amusing aspects of the Cuban culture that we saw on our trip there recently was the abundance of old cars. I’d guess twenty-five to thirty percent of all the vehicles on the road were pre-1960 American automobiles. And these were not pristine trailer queens, they were daily drivers the locals depended on to run their businesses and get them around.
Seeing the myriad classic cars made me think, “Maybe more things are fixable than I figured.”
We live in a throw away culture. From disposable diapers to disposable phones to disposable contact lenses we can slip into thinking everything is soon obsolete. If it’s broke, don’t fix it, toss it is the way we live.
And that value has crept into our personal connections. An ever-increasing sense of disposable relationships has permeated our society. When we’re finished with him or her, we toss them aside. But maybe there are a lot more fixable things than we figured.
When I got back from Cuba I discovered that my 2005 Mustang’s engine was toast. Its ten years old, time to throw it away and get a newer model, right? But the Cuba experience made me re-think that. I’d heard that the least expensive car you can get is the one you already have. So, I had a new engine—well, new to me—installed, and the car is back on the road.
I get that there is a time to give up on a car. I’ve delivered my share of jalopies to the junk yard. And I know there’s a time to sell and move on. I walked away from an MG I owned after finally understanding the MG stands for, “My Goodness, it is broken down again!” (I sold it to someone who used to be a friend of mine.)
But not every vehicle is meant for the trash heap. We have two 1966 Ford Mustangs in our garage. And they run fine (some, if not most of the time!)
I also get that there are times to give up on a relationship. I’ve said, “You’re fired.” I’ve been dumped and I’ve broken up with girls. I never used, “It’s not you, it’s me.” I discovered that, “You remind me too much of my sister,” worked wonderfully every time.
And more relationships than we figure might be fixable. The least expensive wife you can get is the one you already have. And the least expensive friend, associate, or staff member you can get might actually also be the one you already have.
Some of my favorite relationships are with people who used to work for me, or I used to work for them. Some of my deepest friendships are with folks who kept at it with me, refusing to walk away. And some of my favorite parishioners are the people who left my church, and then returned.
The Apostle Paul put it this way, “Make friends with ordinary people. Don’t mistreat someone who has mistreated you. But try to earn the respect of others, and do your best to live at peace with everyone.”—Romans 12:16-18 (CEV)
The junk yard should be the last option for our ride and our relationships. Maybe we can find some new parts, drop in a newer engine, jerry-rig an old fan and have that Ford or friendship spinning almost as good as new. It might be more fixable than we figured.