Monday Musings...Stayin Alive on I-75

I have a very bad habit of waiting until my gas tank is virtually empty before I go and fill it up. I can’t tell you how many times I have thought that I am moving along only on the fumes. So this day was no different.

I chugged into the gas station, turned the ignition off, and immediately a gentleman appeared from the shadows and started cleaning my wind shield. I got out of the car and he greeted me with a hearty hello and asked how my day was going. I replied with a standard “good” and then I asked him, “How about you”?

Instead of the usual “fine”, he said, “Well, I'm sure you don’t want to hear about my life? You don’t have enough time.”

I paused, smiled broadly, and said, “Well I've got a big vehicle and its bone dry. I would love to hear what’s been going on.”

And so it began. As Leroy opened up, I learned that he had moved from state to state, jumping from one disappointment to another. He took this job so he could pay child support, but had little left over to keep a roof over his own head. His mother was sick and he was desperate to move closer to her, as she was the only person in his life who never gave up on him. He just didn't know how to make it happen. As my gas tank was filling, so was my heart. He was a gentle man, a kind man, who owned the mistakes he made, and just wanted to go home and start his life over.

I couldn't help but think that Leroy was running on empty. He barely had enough fumes to keep him going. And here we were, two strangers talking on the side of I-75. I really wasn't sure that I had any fuel to give him. But I stood there and listened and as fate would have it, there were no cars behind me, so I listened some more. He talked about his dream job and what he would do if he could get to Alabama. I asked him if he thought it was possible. “Anything is possible,” he said, “I just have to take the first step. I think I’ll call my mom.” I shook his hand, wished him well, and drove away thinking I got more than a full tank of gas. I got to be with someone who needed to talk and feel like change was possible.

A week or so went by and again the needle on my gas tank was below the E mark. I pulled into the same gas station, and guess who was there? Leroy! I couldn't believe it. It was a different day of the week and a different time of day and here he was. I don’t know about you, but so often in my life I have to be hit over the head twice before I Iearn something, so I pulled up, jumped out of the car, and, as if were best friends, shouted, “Leroy! Tell me! Did you talk to your mom?” Now, I am sure that Leroy saw a lot of people in the last 10 days, but I barrelled through assuming he remembered me.

“Hey! It’s my Canadian friend! Well, I certainly did call mom. I'm leavin’ at the end of the week. I've got a couple of interviews lined up already. Man, it’s gonna be so good to be home.”

I was so happy for him and it was so cool for me to hear about his plans moving ahead. But little did I know that Leroy would fill my tank with more than gas, yet again. “You know, lady, we spend so much of our time spinning our wheels from morning until night and we’re never really going anywhere. We are constantly running on empty tanks, like you, and for what? You gotta think that you can’t do it all. You gotta remember what’s important. You gotta have enough fuel for who’s important in your life.”

He was right.

I wish I could say that I've broken my habit, but there are still times when I let the needle drop below E in my life, though it happens less often now. When it does, and I hear that warning bell, I think of Leroy and his words to me. I know that I can’t continually run on fumes and neither can you. So this week, let’s try to keep more gas in our tank, so we make it home!

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