Red Letters

Red Letters

Love is like jumpstarting a car

A friend of mine took her three kids to the doctor’s office. While in the waiting room, she met a young mother with her newborn baby. The new mom looked dog-tired. She recognized that look from the early days of being up all night with her own children.

Their appointments ended at the same time. In the parking lot, the new mom’s car would not start. She’d turn the key, listen to the chug, and then sit back, defeated again. Each time her eyes seemed a little more hollow. Determined she’d try again.

My friend thinks, “I should do something.”

She quickly thinks about the things she could do. She doesn’t know how to jumpstart a car–and she doesn’t even have jumper cables.


As much as she might want to help the new mom, she can’t. Her instincts are right on. But she is not trained or prepared to love this woman by jumpstarting her car. The best she can do is call someone else for help–something the new mom was already in the process of doing by this point.

If you don’t know how to help people out of the trouble they are in, you can’t love them very well. Sympathize, yes. But love? No.

You may find no value in learning how to jumpstart a car. “I have AAA,” you say, “If I ever have car troubles I just call for help.”

A life of love says, “I will learn how to do menial and unimportant tasks because the likelihood that someone else will need my help is very great. And if I don’t know how to help, I have missed an opportunity to love them.”

I want to begin creating a list of things like jumpstarting a car–practical skills that people can learn how to do. I thought of jumpstarting a car and changing a tire. People in these situations feel helpless, and when someone goes out of their way to help, it brings love into their lives.

What are some others?

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posted August 17, 2010 at 10:29 am

When I was in college I had a very unreliable car…it would over-heat constantly and just die in the middle of the road. I didn’t know anything about how to cool it off, I didn’t even know how to put it in neutral to push it out of the road. Thank goodness for all the kind men that stopped to help me during these times. Both of these things are pretty simple to know, but help SO much when your car is dead in the middle of the road and you’re panicking!

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posted August 17, 2010 at 10:45 am

Thanks for helping me jump start my car at Starbucks :)

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posted August 17, 2010 at 10:52 am

Fix a leaking faucet
Mow the grass – Oh, how I wish I’d learned this earlier in life!
Weed – This too!
Trim hedges – this isn’t actually hard, but what a blessing to somebody
Get somebody unstuck from a snow drift or mud – totally critical in some places
Put on tire chains – I wish somebody had been able to help me with this once!
Change wiper blades
Give good directions / Draw a good map – not everybody uses gps!
Cook a simple meal – I have about 5 recipes that can be created from things that are always in my pantry.

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Melissa Carter

posted August 17, 2010 at 11:32 am

Thanks Tom for show how practicality works. Melissa Carter

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Tiffany Stuart

posted August 17, 2010 at 12:38 pm

The smallest things done with love carry much weight. Thanks for sharing as always.

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posted August 17, 2010 at 2:45 pm

I love your statement, “If you don’t know how to help people out of the trouble they are in, you can’t love them very well.”
Parents of special needs kids rarely have anyone else with the training to care for their children, thus they never get time off. It would help immensely to have more people who can assist.
Many single adults are a type of orphan today. Many left home before they were mature. They need families to surround them. They need elder women and men to train them up, to provide time with kids, to prepare them for cross-gender relationships, to provide insights and wisdom. If they are living alone they sometimes need another set of hands, or need companionship and time with people who will sharpen and challenge them.
Home repair – painting, defrosting freezers, fixing broken cupboards/lights/doors
Finances – budgets, giving, investments, weighing quality versus cost, downsizing, creating a will
Self care – rest, balance, understanding what is in our food (reading labels), time management, healthy eating
Technology – online safety, word processing/spreadsheet skills, communicating with respect, tools versus toys, learning to unconnect,
Sewing – buttons, hand repairs,
Laundry – removing stains, how to improve the life of clothing
Organizing – what to keep, give, store, and use

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Tom Davis

posted August 17, 2010 at 8:31 pm

Tracy! Missing you. Hope you’re enjoying California.
Great ideas Felicia and Sherie. They are challenging me to rethink how I show random acts of love and kindness.

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Preston Hite

posted August 17, 2010 at 11:17 pm

How about loaning/giving books that you have read that you know will really help a person through their particular situation? (Not that you can do this in the parking lot, but there are lots of times when I think how a particular book I have read will help someone, so I should just loan it.)

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