What’s Under the Hood?

I took my car in for service the other day. It was supposed to take about 20 minutes, but the universe had other plans for me. For you see, it wanted to show me something, and I was a helpless captive to the desires of the universe.

First I sat in the waiting room like everyone else. Shielded. Sitting two inches from another person but valiantly trying to maintain my space. I had a newspaper; the classic sign for “leave me alone.” I didn’t feel like engaging with anyone. I was only supposed to be there for 20 minutes after all. No time to make someone’s acquaintance.

But the universe threw a wrench at my car, and my mechanic said, “you’re due for the 120,000 mile service. We can do most of it here so you don’t have to go to the dealer. But it will take a good 45 minutes. Maybe longer.” Robble. But I acquiesced because I was already there. In for a penny, in for a pound, and the universe was surreptitiously tying my feet to my chair so I couldn’t leave anyway.

I decided, with a grand sigh, to put my newspaper down and engage with the other hapless victims of the mechanic’s shop. The kid next to me was reading a sci-fi novel. He was my first victim. All I did was say, “Man it always takes longer than you think it will.” He looked up, smiled, and started sharing his life story, as people are wont to do around me. I didn’t mind. I knew I was going to be there for a while. Universal tendrils snaked their way up my leg, tethering me further to my chair. Something was coming. Something important.

There was an old man with a cane and two hearing aids sitting near us. He looked like he was trying to nap. You see, because my car was being worked on so heavily, it backed up the entire line and the waiting room was filling up with people. I continued talking to sci-fi guy and gave him some advice to help him make a really important life-changing decision. I looked to the universe and said, “There, I helped this young man. Was that what you wanted? Can you untie me now? And can I get my car back?” The universe slowly shook its head.

A few minutes later the mechanic came in with an update, “Due to the position of your transmission this is going to take a little longer than we thought. Probably 2 hours.” Sheesh! I have things to do and was running out of people to talk to.

The universe cinched a belt around my waist and I saw new tendrils snaking their way around my arms, pinning me to the seat. Wow, whatever’s coming must be good! My poor car.

And then I saw him. The kid in the hoodie. He was coming our way. Was he going to enter the waiting room? I didn’t even see him leave a car anywhere. As soon as he walked in, everyone got shifty and the energy changed. What was jovial was now guarded. People clutched their belongings closer. Merely the presence of this hoodie was enough for people to start judging.

He was a kid, early twenties. Beautiful bleach blonde hair, gorgeous piercing green eyes, tan skin, super skinny, and he was deeply hidden by the cowl of his hoodie, his hands in his pocket. There was a light around this kid. Target acquired. The universe whispered in my ear, “Watch him. Carefully. You’ll know what to do when the time is right.” I was firmly pinned to my seat now with the gravitational force of an object launching into space. What was going to happen? Who was this kid? What was he going to do? What was his story?

We all sat there in silence. Then hoodie-kid got a phone call. He answered and we could hear at least one side of the call. Wasn’t hard to figure out what was happening. “No, Dad, I’m not going to make my fiancĂ© take a bus to work. I gave her my truck.” “Look, Dad, it’s not a big deal. Nothing is going to happen.” “Well I don’t care if you don’t like it. It’s my truck and my decision.” “Because I love her, that’s why.” And the last thing he said was, “Tough shit.” And he hung up the phone. He was upset and sat down.

Now? I asked the universe. The universe said, “Not yet. Hang on a click.” I waited.

In a minute, hoodie-boy said to one in particular, “Parents!”

Old guy with the cane rolled his eyes. Sci-fi kid gave a polite snort of agreement but shook his head at the kid as if to say, “You should respect your parents.”

The universe said, “Now. Move in. Go.”

I leaned out a little, looked right at him and said, “Is your dad mad at you?” That was the key that opened the floodgate. “He’s not my real father. But yeah, he’s mad.” He then launched into his story, right there in front of everyone. The story went roughly like this:

“I grew up a rich kid in a great neighborhood in Los Angeles. My parents were both in the movie industry and I had it made. But when I was 14 my parents were both killed and I found myself suddenly alone. I was taken in by my aunt and uncle, but only until the inheritance money was firmly in their hands, then they kicked me out, knowing I had nowhere else to go. I didn’t care. I decided to stay on my own and be homeless.”

Everyone in the room stopped what they were doing and perked their ears. He continued.

“I slept behind the gym at my school, outside, sometimes inside the dumpster if it was clean. I was terrified that someone was going to find me and I figured if I was in the dumpster nobody would see me sleeping on school property. I took gym class first period so I could shower and wash my clothes. I lived on school breakfast and lunches, and sometimes I begged for money or food from others.”

I asked him why he didn’t go into foster care so at least he’d have a roof over his head and food in his belly. He said, “I didn’t want to be a burden on anyone, and I didn’t want to ever risk losing family again.”

He continued, “Sometimes at night I had to go to a gas station and beg them to give me some food because I’m a diabetic and sometimes I just couldn’t wait until morning to eat again. It was tough. But I did okay, and graduated high school. Then one day I was sitting out on the beach and I ran into one of my dad’s old friends. When he found out I was homeless he took me in. And I let him because honestly I was tired of living on the street.”

The room was deathly quiet. People were rapt with attention.

“Now I’m 22 years old. I have a full time job and also go to college part time. My girlfriend has been with me since 7th grade and we’re getting married this year. She also works and goes to school. I don’t drink, and I don’t do drugs. I pay all my bills myself.”

At this time the old guy’s car was ready and he stood up to pay his bill. The moment he did, his cane dropped to the ground. Without hesitation, hoodie-kid rushed to pick up the man’s cane, and held it out to him saying, “Here you go, sir.” The old man looked at him strangely and said, “Uh, thanks.” He replied, “No problem, sir.”

As the old man left, he said to the kid in the hoodie, “You’re a good kid, son. I respect what you’ve been through and what you’re doing with your life.” Hoodie-guy said, “Thank you, sir. I appreciate that. You have a great day!”

His story was fascinating. I had so many questions about how he survived for 4 years on his own. Sci-fi kid got involved too, asking questions, and before long the room was simply full of respect for this young kid.

I said to the universe, “Wow, what an interesting kid. So, he pulled himself together and is living a good honest life. What do you want me to do with him now?” The universe replied, “Tell him to write a book about his life.” Awesome idea!

So I said, “Hey, you should share your story with others. Write a book about how you survived on your own.” He laughed and said, “It’s sort of funny you say that because you’re the 4th person this week to tell me that. I don’t know if you believe in signs but it sure seems like something or someone wants me to write a book. I would love to but doesn’t it cost like thousands of dollars to get something like that published?”

Ah, that was it. Now I knew what I was doing there and why the universe made my car so difficult to repair. I took the next 15 minutes to explain to him how to self-publish his book, how to find an agent, and divesting him of the beliefs he had about the trials and tribulations of getting a book published.

He was rapt with attention. He thanked me profusely. “Oh my god, you have no idea what you just did for me today. I had no idea I could do this or that it was possible to self-publish. I will totally get onto this website you gave me and get going on a book.” He hugged me twice. I told him he might even interest a publisher in his story and could potentially make some money. He said, “Oh I don’t care if it makes money. I just want to help other kids who are runaways or homeless. I have a warm bed to sleep in every night. That’s all I need in the world to be happy. People take their beds for granted, but I’ll tell you that after sleeping on concrete for 4 years, a bed is the biggest luxury there is.”

Sci-fi guy said, “Dude, you’re awesome. I’m never complaining about my life again.” I asked hoodie his name. He said, “Brandon.” I told him my name. He said, “I can’t believe I met you today. You totally changed my life. Do you believe in spirits? I think my parents are still looking out for me from beyond. And I think they sent you into my life to help me.”

I winked at him and said, “Could be.” I hugged him. Twice. His energy was amazing.

At that moment my mechanic walked in and said, “Your car is done. Let me show you what’s under the hood.” I smiled and thought to myself, “I know what’s under the hood. A really special kid who is going to change people’s lives for the better.”

Sometimes you are the change in someone’s life. Look for the light, listen for the whispers, and see the opportunities to help others. You never know what’s under the hood.

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