Recovering The SelfA Journal of Hope and Healing

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Fulfilling Your Dreams

Rules For Life – Drawing Your Bottom Line

by Ken La Salle

Welcome back to my continuing series of Rules For Life.

Yesterday, I found myself waiting at my auto mechanic’s shop. I had taken my wife’s car in for a tune-up, only to discover that her rear brakes were badly in need of maintenance.journey in art

“Can it wait a couple of weeks,” I asked, as I nearly always do because I hate shelling out money for such things.

“No. You really need this done,” my mechanic told me. His name is Robert, by the way. I knew I could trust Robert when he said this because that’s the first time he’d ever said that to me. After years of bringing our cars to his shop and putting repairs off as long as we could, this was the first time I’d ever heard him tell me something couldn’t be put off. As it turned out, the brakes were very nearly metal on metal; so I was glad I listened.

As I waited for him to make the repairs, I watched as a large SUV pulled up. The SUV was filled with people and the driver stepped out by himself. The driver, a young man in his twenties, spoke to Robert about a problem his car was having and Robert explained that the SUV was in need of an oil change.

How much would that be, the young man asked. Though I didn’t catch the price Robert quoted, I could see from the young man’s face it would be far too much. He explained that he and his family lived in the San Francisco bay area and that they had driven down this way to visit Disneyland, which had taken all of their money. He had never expected to have car problems.

“Tell you what you do,” Robert explained, pointing at the auto supply shop across the street. “You go over there and pick up a five-gallon jug of oil. Bring it back here and I’ll charge you just twenty bucks for the service.”

I could see from the joy on the young man’s face that he never expected such a deal. I was impressed, too.

And then, I watched as the SUV’s passengers stepped out of the car so Robert could pull it into the shop. In addition to the young man’s bride, five children were aboard. I thought about the age of the young couple and all those kids, driving down to southern California to enjoy Disneyland, and how tight money can be when you’re that young. And I felt a kind of gladness that the money for my brakes was going into the pocket of a guy like Robert, someone whose bottom line did not just reside in his wallet.

In the United States, we are indoctrinated in greed from an early age. Once upon a time, public figures decried greed as a terrible vice but, now, greed is so accepted, so common, that we even legalized bribery. With the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United ruling, bribery became the law of the land.

But what does that get us? What benefit does greed provide?

Only money. Nothing else.

When you make your bottom line money, all you end up with is money.

As I watched Robert helping this family out, I realized that when you make your bottom line something less tangible, when you treat others decently and when you try to be a good person, the rewards you reap are far greater still. Because, you see, with that one act of kindness, Robert might have only gained a small profit and maybe no profit at all, but he also gained a new friend in the young father of five who will let anyone he knows heading down to southern California about the honest mechanic who helped him. In the age of social media, that counts for a lot.

And as someone who witnessed this act of kindness, I can tell you I am much more likely to continue taking my business to Robert and tell my friends. Because anyone can make money if that’s all they want and being a good mechanic only takes know-how. But being a good person takes a kind of strength that is so rare these days, that it inspired me to tell you.

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Recovering The Self is a forum for people to tell their stories. Individual contributors accept complete responsibility for the veracity, accuracy, and non-infringement of their reporting.
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