the tale of two roberts: on car shopping, keys and kindness

When kindness overtakes a posture of defense, a key opens our eyes to passageways of new understandings and appreciations. And sometimes we can learn these life lessons in the craziest places. You know, like car shopping!

Car shopping is way up there on my list of things that I really, really don’t like. But, alas, our circumstances required us to start hunting for a different find. Anytime Matt would bring up the idea of looking at cars, my turtle head would shrink back into its shell. We knew relatively what we were looking for, yet I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to spend the time we didn’t have looking for a vehicle.

But we had a deadline. December 7th. The car we currently owned was being bought back by the company due to an emissions situation, and that was our date with the dealership to turn it in.

After perusing the internet and with the deadline looming, we sat down, found three cars online, and went to those various dealerships.

We gingerly walked into the first dealership, and my honest thought was, “Brace yourself. All they want is our business.”

I’m actually embarrassed to say that. Did I forget that car salespeople, who often get terrible reputations, are humans? With feelings? Up until this day, I’d never walked into a dealership to buy a car. Ever. Yet before I even opened the first door, I judged the people with the smiles as if all they saw were $ symbols over my head. What is wrong with me?!

At the first dealership we met Robert. Warm. Welcoming. As we drove around, he inquired about our lives. My guard began to come down. I quickly found when we stop wondering what someone wants from us and realizing we can learn from each other, bricks start falling to the ground from the walls within our hearts.

And then we began to ask. A retired chef who changed careers because of pain in his hands. Wants to retire one day in France. When we exited the vehicle, I felt enriched by learning this man’s journey. I actually felt bad when we decided not to go with that vehicle.

At the third dealership, we met another Robert. Young. Millenial. A little reserved. This time I felt Robert was the one guarded. Maybe it’s because he brought me a paper and said, “Can you sign this? In case you kidnap me, they’ll have your contact.” I smiled at him and laughed inside at the comment. Or maybe the first Robert allowed my protective barriers to collapse.

As we drove the streets test driving the car, I actually felt the second Robert’s guard coming down. As he started sharing about his life and family, it was almost as if he started trusting us.

And then he began:

“Not everyone’s nice like you guys,” he said.

“What do you mean?” I inquired. We’d only known this car salesman for twenty minutes, and his statement left me perplexed.

“Well, sometimes they don’t see me as a person. They’re ready to argue and are defensive before I even say anything.”

“What good does that do anyone?” I asked.

“I know. It’s a hard job at times because people feel a certain way. I get it and understand, but sometimes before I even open my mouth I just want to be treated like a human being.”

Raw. Those words stabbed my heart.

Treated. Like. A. Human. Being.

Is that too much to ask for each of us that stands on this blue and green planet with billions of others? No one is better than anyone else. By stripping away the pretenses, the reality of our hearts are exposed. And the most beautiful hearts I’ve ever seen are those willing to be vulnerable amidst life’s vast array of challenges and victories. It’s outrageously attractive, and it’s the kind of beauty that runs deeper than makeup and possessions and striving.

As we drove home, Robert’s comments were strewn through my brain and seeped into my heart. We had a new car key, but I also had another key: The Key of Kindness. No one ever gets hurt with kindness.

I’m grateful for both Roberts instructing and reminding me of the importance of kindness to a weary, waiting world. And to think it all happened at car dealerships.


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