The call came in an hour before closing.
Someone’s van had a flat tire along the highway, about five miles from our repair shop. He was a floor layer and was three hours from home. He did not have a spare tire with him.
The week at the repair shop had been busy, but that Friday afternoon was especially hectic. Several customers needed their vehicles and equipment for the weekend. Power tools were pulsating. Tire machines were whining. Hoists were humming. And the alignment rack was rumbling, indicating that another vehicle had moved onto the pad.
There was no time for a service call to a total stranger.
It’s the loyal and local customers who help a repair shop survive and thrive.
A small business owner can’t help doing a quick cost-benefit calculation when taking a call like this. “We’ll never see this guy again.” And, “It’s a service call. Will we even get paid after providing the service?” Not to mention, “Will we still be able to meet our responsibilities to our regular customers?”
But those thoughts quickly vanished. He was a traveler on the road, a stranded motorist. He needed help, and someone needed to help him. We’re not the only repair shop in the area, but we were the one he called.
It didn’t matter if we ever saw him again. It didn’t even matter if he was penniless. The right thing to do was to take the service truck out and get this motorist safely back on the road again. And with any luck, we’d still have enough time to get done what absolutely had to get done for our existing customers that afternoon.
The service call ended up going longer than expected, but was ultimately successful—with both repair and payment. The grateful stranger went on his way.
Providing hospitality is a pretty common theme throughout the Bible. A particularly beautiful passage on it can be found in Hebrews 13:2. “Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.”
We never know how much good can be done simply by doing good.
And an act of auto repair may not seem like an act of hospitality, but it is when the appointment calendar is full and the shop still drops everything to help a total stranger.
Four days later, my husband was six hours from home when a wheel bearing quite suddenly went loose on his vehicle. He limped the car into a nearby and busy repair shop.
He told his story. He was far from home and needed help, right away.
Perhaps the overwhelmed small business owner had fleeting thoughts that sounded like. “We’ll never see this guy again, will we even get paid, and what about our existing customers?”
But he shifted the schedule where he could, had a part delivered within an hour, and had the repair completed within a few hours after that.
Before noon, my husband—a grateful stranger—was on his way home.
This world is a little too complicated to say that, in all circumstances, we should help the traveler on the road.
Because of “stranger-danger” safety concerns, most parents tell their teenagers not to pull over for stranded motorists along the roadway. Better to place a phone call to authorities and alert them that a motorist may need help. Besides, it’s safe to assume that nearly all travelers have cell phones and have already placed a call for help when there’s car trouble.
But when a small repair shop receives that distress call from a traveling stranger, it’s a humble reminder that sometimes we all need help. That the stranded motorist is someone’s husband or wife, son or daughter, father or mother, brother or sister. Some day our own loved one could be the traveling stranger in unfamiliar territory, and wouldn’t we hope that someone would help them too?
Yes, Mr. Floor Layer, we’ll roll out of the shop—even on the busiest of days—and head your direction.