By The Rev. Tony Marciano
When my sons were in high school, I tried to find something we could do together. I wasn’t interested in video games, and they thought radio control airplanes took too long to learn. We agreed to find a car from the 1960s and restore it.
We found an old Mustang. Together we rebuilt brakes, tuned it, etc. We painted the car with 24 cans of rattle can spray paint. We had a blast.
Eventually, they grew up and moved out. I still have the car and have recently enjoyed taking it to “cars and coffee” at Charlotte Motor Speedway. I enjoyed walking around and seeing the variety of cars being shown off.
As I was about to leave, I noticed two men looking at my car. One man looked closely at the windshield and saw fragments of a yellow inspection sticker. He told me it was a New York inspection sticker. I explained it was a North Carolina inspection sticker. He got a little testy with me and said, “I know my inspection stickers. That is a New York inspection sticker.” He went on to say that this car was from New York and had been driven in the snow there. I just listened and let him walk away. After he left, I got in the car and drove off.
I knew he was wrong for several reasons. I bought the car in Tennessee. It was originally sold in Charlotte. But the reason I knew he was wrong was that I had the windshield replaced shortly after I bought it. While it had no major cracks, it had hundreds of little cracks that made it impossible to see through if you were driving into the sun. In fact one day, I had to come home because the sun was on the horizon and I couldn’t see past the end of the hood. I replaced the windshield and then peeled off the North Carolina inspection sticker from the original windshield and put it on the new one. Today, cars over 35 years do not have to be inspected.
I don’t know why he reacted the way he did. What was lost was the opportunity for two gear heads to have a conversation about a car from yesteryear. Normally, you ask about the history of the car, the size of the motor, how long have you owned it, what have you done to it and what are your plans for the future. It’s called gear head talk. That never occurred. He walked away and I drove off.
I remember him walking away with an attitude of I’m right and this is a New York car. I drove off and reminded myself the expression we often talk about at the Rescue Mission. It says, “Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?”
So often, the church talks about the sins of the flesh – the things I can see people doing. But there are also the sins of the spirit – the things I cannot see people doing. Someone may be smiling to my face while struggling with the sins of anger, unforgiveness, envy, jealousy, or greed. Was this the sin of arrogance I witnessed? My job is not to judge. In fact, my job is not to convict of sin. My role is to tell the wonder of the greatness of God’s love and redemption.
I’ll be back at cars and coffee. Who knows; we may run into each other again. He may mumble about this being a New York car. I’ll smile. I’d rather be happy than be right.
I’ll be back soon. Until then, live well my friend.
Rev. Tony Marciano is the President/CEO of the Charlotte Rescue Mission.