Today I am letting go of a good friend, Maxx. While I prayed and waited for this day to come, I find myself with a lump in my heart. I picked Maxx up off the lot in 2005, the first new car I ever bought, a gray Chevy Malibu with a hatchback. Maxx has taken me 328,000 miles since then, the equivalent of 13 times around the globe, without any major engine work ever done.
My son turned 14 last weekend, and he can’t remember me having a car other than Maxx. When I first got the car, Dan Varner and I were carpooling to work at Think Detroit, amazed at the spunk of the V-6 engine jumping on to I-94 each morning.
Over time, Maxx began to show his age, and I mine. The CD player went first, then the AC petered out. The key fobs stopped working just as rust began popping through the paint job. About 30,000 miles ago, the check engine light began keeping a warm glow on the dashboard like a night-light in a nursery.
“No sense spending the money to get this stuff fixed,” I reasoned, “I’ll be getting a new car soon.” The years went by and I grew used to Maxx’s idiosyncrasies.
That changed last fall when I was helping to park cars at the Open House of my son’s school. Faith is a huge part of our family, and we pay more than a car note or two to send our children to schools that support their spiritual formation. This Open House was one of those school’s ways of recruiting students for the next year, and I was blown away by the luxury cars pulling into the parking lot. I greeted the driver of a BMW, then an Escalade, then a Cadillac, all seemingly brand new, then a beat-up Chevy almost as old as mine. I felt embarrassed for the older lady driving it. A few moments went by before I realized that her car actually looked nicer than mine. Ouch. Was this how people looked at me when I drove into the lot each morning?
That thought stuck with me for a bit, and it stung. Like Maxx, I had aged too, and not always gracefully. I started looking at him and my situation with a nagging self-pity. Why hadn’t life turned out differently? Why couldn’t I get the financial breakthrough that would make a newer car possible? One night, I shared my feelings with my wife as we got ready for bed.
“Are you kidding me?” she said. “Michael, that car is just like you. Sure it’s got some dents and scratches, but it’s dependable. It’s gotten this family wherever we needed to be, and it never stops going. Don’t you see that car is just like you!”
In an instant, she reshaped the way I saw the world and my role in it. I brought Maxx in to the local bump shop to get his rust spots covered up and drove my son to school every day with joy and gratitude instead of pity and resentment.
We all need more friends like that in our life, people who love us and can look at our circumstances and see how we will overcome them instead of letting them overwhelm us. That’s what Jonathan, the son of King Saul did for David when he was alone and running for his life in the wilderness (1 Samuel 23: 15-18). And he changed the future of Israel. That’s what we can do more often and more purposely for young people in poverty. And we can change the future of our nation too.
To learn more about how you can join this movement, order a copy of my book, The Jonathan Effect, and please join us at the Leverage 2016 conference on November 10-11 in Detroit to hear from young people and the Jonathan’s in their lives–and how both their worlds are being changed for the better.