Confession: I used to steal cars.
In fact, during the summer of 2001, I actually stole 3. And words cannot describe the adrenaline that one feels when getting into a car… that is not yours and hastily pulling away. There’s really nothing like it.
I should probably clarify something off the bat. I worked as a repo man for a few months when I was younger. And “stealing cars” is a term given in the repo business when the bank or dealership requests that a vehicle be retrieved without the owner’s approval or prior knowledge. It’s perfectly legal. In fact, just prior to “stealing” a car, I had to first contact the local authorities to let them know who I was and what I was about to do, just in case the owner tried to call and report the vehicle as stolen.
There was certainly an element of danger involved when stealing one. And honestly, though the pay was less, I much preferred retrieving a vehicle where the owner was aware and a prior agreement was made for me to just stop by and pick it up.
Though I only worked as a repo man for a few months, I learned a few valuable life-lessons that I’ll never forget. I want to share a few of the lessons I learned:
1) Always try to show kindness and compassion to those who are hurting or struggling.
Though I witnessed a lot of pride, I also witnessed a lot of humility. Some people couldn’t fight back the tears as they handed over their keys. I learned that whatever a person is struggling with, the struggle is real to them. May God help us if we ever become so hardhearted that we’re no longer moved by another’s pain. When given the opportunity, I would always try to encourage the people I’d meet. Though words won’t remove the reality behind one’s pain, it almost always helps to ease it, if even but temporarily. The world could use a little more kindness and compassion.
2) “Everyone” has a story.
Often when retrieving a vehicle, the owner would feel compelled to tell me their story. Many of them seemed genuine and legitimate, such as “loss of employment”, “divorce”, or “unexpected medical bills.” But out of all the stories told me, I never once heard someone say,
– “I got myself into this mess.”
– “I have a spending problem.”
– “I never learned how to budget my money.”
– “The bank offered me the loan, but I knew I really couldn’t afford it.”
I never heard anyone take personal responsibility. And that always bothered me. Because if I’m suffering an adverse consequence of some kind, it’s more than likely due to a poor choice that “I” made. And I’m adult enough to admit that. I haven’t always used good judgment. I’ve messed things up. My fault. Not yours or anyone else’s. Mine.
Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone took personal responsibility for their mistakes instead of making excuses or redirecting blame?
3) You can’t judge a book by it’s vehicle… or, something like that.
You would be mistaken to think most of the vehicles repossessed came from lower income families. Some were, but many were not. I remember receiving a work order for a gentleman I actually knew in the legal community. He was a lawyer and lived in a very nice home. And yet there I was at his house attempting to retrieve the late model luxury car he could no longer afford.
Here’s something for us to remember: Just because someone wears a suit and tie doesn’t mean they’re wealthy. Just because someone drives a luxury car doesn’t mean they can afford it. And just because you see someone who appears to have it all together doesn’t mean the life they’re hiding isn’t crumbling around them. Let’s not be so quick to assume. Be gracious and kind to everyone.
And for what it’s worth, I think the world could use a few more people who are content with who they are and what they have.
4) I learned that perspective is everything.
One of the most memorable moments I had in retrieving a car came at the home of a middle-aged black gentleman. He came to the door soon after I rang the bell. He knew who I was and why I was there, and he came to the door with his keys in hand. He kept the conversation short, but I’ll never forget his words. He told me:
“My wife and I were going through a difficult season in our marriage. We were separated for several months and about to get divorced. I acted a fool and let things get out of hand. But the LORD called me back. And when I came back, He fixed me and my marriage. I almost lost my wife, but we’re back together. And that’s the most important thing right now. This… This is just a car. It can be replaced. And if the LORD can fix me and my marriage, everything else will work out just fine. We’re going to be OK.” And as he handed me the keys, he told me, “the LORD is good.”
He had it right. The LORD “is” good- even when you have to give your car back to the bank. And everything “will” work out just fine. Seasons come and go. If you’re experiencing a season of pain in your life, be encouraged, it won’t last forever. But likewise, if you’re experiencing a season of peace and calm it won’t last forever either. But regardless of what season we’re in, the LORD is still good, and with Him in control, it all will be just fine.
So there you have it. Confessions of a repo man. Just be sure if you tell someone that I used to steal cars, you tell them the whole story!
~ Jason Mayfield
Brushy Fork Baptist Church