Posted on | September 10, 2006 | By David Linn | 5 Comments
Last August, my wife and I decided to use the Amusement Park tickets a client had given me to take our kids for an end of the summer trip. Since there is a fair amount of driving involved, I brought the van in for an oil change and a fluid check. When I came back to pick up the van, the mechanic advised that the front brake pads were alright for now but would need replacement shortly. So, what else is new, you bring in the car for wiper blades and they tell you that you need a new transmission!
A few weeks later, I noticed that my right front tire was low and when I pulled into the gas station to put some air in, I noticed a nail in the tire. I added the air and figured I would take care of the tire the next day. The next morning the tire was fine as the head of the nail, which is much wider than the point, seemed to have sealed off the hole. As such, I figured I’d let my luck ride (pun intended) and leave the tire for the time being (don’t try this at home!).
Motzei shabbos, a few weeks later, we were involved in a post-Hurricane Katrina clothing and home furnishing drive for members of the displaced New Orleans Jewish community. Our home was the drop off point for the neighborhood and we, baruch hashem, had an entire basement full of clothing, housewares, judaica, school supplies, toys, games, hats, furniture, bicycles, etc. A number of volunteers were busy boxing and labeling the items when they ran out of Sharpies and packing tape. I decided to let my wife drive us to the store since she was still practicing for her long awaited road test. She did great. The only problem was that when she pulled into the parking spot at the store, we heard that slow hissssssssss of trapped air rushing to freedom. I artfully readjusted the van so that the part of the tire with the nail in it was flush to the ground hoping that the weight of the van would push the head of the nail tightly against the hole. It seemed to have worked well enough to get us home.
We stayed up to the wee hours of the morning packing boxes and I tried to squeeze in some time to prepare for my very first day as a college lecturer. The next morning, the truck and movers arrived and my wife went for her driving lesson. I brought the car to the service station a few blocks away to change the tire. I was in a rush to get back home to help finish the packing and my lesson preparation. Against my nature (the procrastinator of the century), I said to the mechanic “You know what, you already have one tire off, change the front brakes.”
The truck eventually left for Memphis, my class seemed to have gone over alright and life, basically, seemed to be getting pretty much back to normal. A few days later I was driving at approximately 35 mph down a large two way street when I noticed a middle aged lady, casually walking across the street pretty much midway between the two corners. She was walking too slow and the van traveling too fast, something had to change. I jammed on the brakes and the horn simultaneously and she started to pick up her pace but it didn’t look good. Everything was happening in slow motion and I could almost picture her being carted away in an ambulance. Thank G-d, the van stopped… so close to her that it might have actually touched her clothing. Now I am normally a pretty mellow guy but my heart and blood were racing, sweat was pouring from my brow and my hands were trembling. I yelled, nearly unperceivably, at the lady “WHAT ARE YOU CRAZY??!!” She, standing on the median, simply looked at me in her own shock realizing that she had almost just left this world.
By the time I came home, I was so exhausted that I crashed onto the couch and slept through the normal early evening, homework-time cacophony. Afterwards, I thought about what had happened and I realized that if some careless construction worker hadn’t dropped his nail, I never would have changed the brakes that morning and the van probably would not have stopped in time to save that lady’s life.
Things happen for a reason. They are meant to test us and to teach us. What seems like an inconvenience and an expense, a nail in your tire, may have the greatest importance. It may just save a life. And little decisions are not little, they are often tremendous. The decision to change the brakes now or to put off the expense for later may keep someone’s mother, sister, daughter, grandmother in this world. Breaking a bad habit, procrastination, or at least trying, affects your life and the life of others.
Little things mean a lot. A nail, a budgeting decision, a small attempt to change a character trait. These things change the world and more often than not we don’t even realize it.
I once read a story of a boy who started collecting pennies on a bet from his brother. That boy collected almost $15,000.00 worth of pennies (and he won the bet!). What is the point? Small change adds up. And that’s exactly what G-d wants from us this time of year, small change. Five minutes extra learning a day or even three minutes. A half an hour without speaking lashon hara. A weekly phone call to a friend or relative who needs a lift. Do something small and the results will be large. Small change adds up, so pick something small to work on and “nail it”!