Have you ever been in the situation where you really needed something done, but every place of business that could provide the service was unavailable? This was the situation I found myself in last Friday afternoon when, after noticing a nail in my tire, I frantically visited every auto repair shop in my central Dallas neighborhood to get it patched. I was looking for a little bit of help so I wouldn’t have to cancel my numerous errands and social appointments for the rest of the day. Things didn’t look good after being turned away by Pep Boys (line out the door), Firestone (too busy with big jobs to worry about me) and Discount Tire (closed).
I was about to give up when I noticed DJ’s Wheel World. With a sign not nearly as glitzy as its national conglomerate neighbors’ and a building that is quite possibly an old Dairy Queen, I decided that I was desperate enough to give this place a shot. I walked in, told of my predicament and found out they were closed. As I muttered a curse word or two under my breath and headed out the door, they called me back and said they could help me out. Five minutes later I was patched up and on my way.
The point of this story is to tell you about the guys who found it in their heart to put down their cold beers, put off their socializing for a few minutes and help me in the midst of my predicament. You see, these guys are not white. These are the guys who your mother warned you about. These are the guys who are used to seeing white folks cross to the other side of the street when their paths are about to cross. These are the guys who have been dealt the rawest of deals from our society’s socio-economic structure.
Who would’ve blamed them if they had sent this rich, white, twentysomething guy on his way, and had a good laugh at my expense as they cracked open another beer? But instead of taking the easy way out, they offered a helping hand. Why? Because these are the guys who understand that the spirit of the law is more important than the letter of the law. Because these are the guys who look you in the eye when they enter into business with you. Because these are the guys who don’t screw you, even though they’ve been screwed by us all their lives.
This experience hit home with me because, growing up, I was taught that God’s kingdom looked primarily one way: white, wealthy and suburban. But God’s rich tapestry takes on more shades than most of us want to admit. Sure, we all sang “red and yellow, black and white” in Vacation Bible School, but not many of us invited the red, yellow, black and white kids to our birthday parties.
So how did I respond to this experience? By doing the only thing I know how to do: give them free stuff. On my way out the door, I handed the owner my business card and told him I would love to give him and his staff some free Mavs tickets to a game of their choice (excluding the Lakers game, of course. I wasn’t that moved by this experience). I hope they didn’t take this as trite or as demeaning; I just wanted to do something to express my appreciation besides telling them “thanks” over and over again.
But then I figured there was one more thing I could do: I could write this article, to tell people about how the guys who run DJ’s Wheel World are good, salt of the earth folks. And hopefully as a result, I could provide them with one more piece of future business (in addition to my own), so that the little guy can survive.
Now, I do realize that if I start to frequent the little guys more than the national corporations, who use their cost-cutting efficiencies to continually offer great financial deals, I may spend a little more money in the end. But if I always make my decisions based on money and convenience, instead of integrity and community, then I am no different from the heartless corporations whose M.O. it seems is to treat the public with a great deal of indifference—as if we need them more than they need us.
Now before you start to think that I’m too idealistic, understand that I do realize it is unrealistic to think that I should be able to walk into Safeway, pick up a pack of Gummy Savers, and holler “put it on my account, G” as I stroll out the door. But I don’t think it’s unrealistic to expect personalized, relationship-driven service at the places of business in my community. So maybe what I can do is support some of the entrepreneurs whose next mortgage payment depends on whether or not the people in their community appreciate the personal attention they provide, and continue to give them business as a result.
It is my belief (and a core value of the Church) that one of the most effective ways to follow God’s plan for our lives is to enter into relationship with our community on a daily basis. And the last time I checked, the CEO of Wal-Mart does not live on my block. So the next time you get a hankering for a big fat hamburger, pass up Fudrucker’s and go to Jake’s instead. The next time you need material for the endless projects you probably have going on around your house, head to Shamburger’s instead of Home Depot. And the next time you need some new tires, definitely go to DJ’s. And if they happen to be closed, they may help you out anyway.[Ronnie Fauss lives with his wife Amy in Dallas, Texas, where he attends Journey Church. He is the controller of the Dallas Mavericks, and also performs as a singer-songwriter throughout the Dallas area.]
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