Nearly eight years ago, our twelve year-old son came into our lives. The first few nights, he was terrified. His grandfather had just passed away. His grandmother was searching for a home where he could live. He was related to my wife Michelle, but I had only met him twice.
I have come to love Carter in a way that I never knew I could love another person. We are buddies. We joke around and goof off. Sometimes we consider the universe and what it has to offer. Other times we dream of how we might help the world and those in that world. Over a year ago, we started compassionwaves.com. We have not made one penny. If you live life right, the dream of doing good things, is as wonderful, as the doing of good things.
Michelle and I lucked out when Carter came into our lives. He is a part of our hearts and our souls. Carter, unknowingly, has changed us for the better in ways that only we and God understand. He calls me Kevin, Kev, Dad, or anything that comes to mind. In the early days of our getting to know one another, he called me, “the car wash guy”.
Each time I came home from work, Carter stood on the other side of the glass storm door, and said, “there’s the car wash guy.”
When you work for a car wash, there is always a good chance you will have on a car wash shirt. Back in the day, when I worked with another company, the logo was a cartoon car covered in bubbles. For a five year-old boy, in a new place, that translated into “the car wash guy”. Years later, I am still in a car wash shirt, most of the time.
This week I went to lunch with a coworker. As we were standing in line, waiting to order, an older, well-dressed, gentleman walked into the restaurant. I turned to my friend and said, “Kingston Pike, Audi SUV, friendly.”
When he stood behind us and began to wait for food also, I introduced myself as, The Car Wash Guy. He did not remember me at first. It had been four years since I had seen him.
We exchanged our first names and went over what the years had brought us. He confirmed that he did, indeed drive an Audi SUV, but traded it for an SRX… I think (I am actually not a car guy). He said business was good, I tricked the cashier into letting me buy his lunch, and we went on our merry way. There is a good chance I will not see him for another four years.
That encounter, along with a week of reflection, made me think about why I love what I do. For certain, it is not the paperwork and reporting process. Absolutely, it is not the way chemicals interact with water and air to create a smooth, clean, dry surface. What it is, is the simplest of things. “Kingston Pike, Audi SUV, friendly.”
It could be “Honda Pilot, brownies, hugs”, or it could be “convertible Mercedes, retired, kind.” Perhaps it might be, “unknown vehicle, survivor, helpful”, or “old truck, friendly dog, and ailing.” Whether it is “big truck, lawyer, down to earth”, or “grey 4 Runner, great smile, toddler son has job at the wash at age sixteen”, they are all in my mind somehow, and they all have a story and a place in my heart.
Yes, I said it, a place in my heart. In the midst of this big corporation, a place in my heart. They may not know it, but they have all affected me in some positive way. Just some dude at the car wash, grateful to have met those he has. And to most, if not all of those people, I am just “the car wash guy.”
For reasons explained above, I am completely fine with that. I have wondered what I get out of the deal. There is a wage and there is personal growth. There are the calls from customers that are happy, and calls from those that are angry (if you listen long enough, there is something else going on in their lives as well). I see team members that are content and those with issues (if you listen long enough, there is something else going on in their lives as well).
Sometimes I get the chance to speak with our COO over the phone. Today he said one of those things that hit home in a real and direct way.
“Usually, someone is coming to the car wash because of some event. A funeral. A special occasion. Something is happening in their lives that is more than the ordinary.”
Then it hit me. All of the stories I am collecting, all of the smiles that I share, and all of the joys and sorrows that have been given to me, from others, are more than ordinary. These people that I have a relationship with, are extra ordinary. And, in the same way that I lucked out with Carter, I lucked out with each encounter with others.
Some people want to be Facebook famous. Others want to do a job that allows them to have a sense of purpose. I am car wash famous. Local, small time, car wash famous. My personal mission is to change the world, one smile at a time. There is nothing more I need, though there is more to come.
I am more than “the car wash guy.” I am a big heaping mess at times, and I am also the kindness that helps others along. Most days, I am an offering of hope, but some days, I am a proverbial thorn, in someone’s proverbial side. I am both a spirit floating in a universe of love, and body that is changing every day. It is my suspicion that you are all of these things also.
There is a hashtag floating around. #morethanwashingcars
It has always been that way for me. What I know is this.
Regardless of what there is in your life at this moment, there is more to come. You can count on your next breath. You can count on your next joy. Some recommend that we do not dream of impossible things. I strongly advise it. Some recommend letting go of desire. I strongly advise we perfect it. Still others say trust only yourself. I suggest we not treat 80% of the humanity that wants only good, based on the 20% of humanity, that are concerned only for themselves.
It is not my religion. It is not my creed. Kindness and compassion have neither want, nor need, for either of these things. I could as easily do what I do for a company that makes plastic forks. But I am fortunate enough to be the car wash guy.