By Robert Provitera
It was a beautiful Stallion White 69 Camaro with headers and a big block engine. There were two cotter pins on the hood to keep all of that horsepower from busting out of the front of the car.
Venturing out away from my childhood home and into a new life 700 miles away found no practical need for transportation that seemed to need gas every 10 minutes. My Father informed me that I could not leave that beast in the tiny driveway that frequently required a car jockey to reposition vehicles.
I reluctantly drove around town with a for sale sign on the window for two months. That car had been like a trusty friend. My time to leave her was fast approaching, and the for sale sign found no takers. A young neighbor had admired this car for years and was getting his driver's license soon. Like a magnet, the sound of the engine firing up would pull him to the front of our house to get a glimpse under the hood.
When I offered him the car, his excitement fell off his face and down into the depths of his empty pockets and back up to his defeated mouth. "Thanks anyway, but I can't afford to buy this car." When I told him he could have it and that I was just giving it to him as a gift, he ran home to tell his parents. Disbelief brought him back again and again in the following days, just to make sure I meant what I said.
When the doorbell rang, and a stranger offered me more than I would have sold the Camaro for, I told the man I had already given it to somebody. He was willing to pay more than any previous offer, not realizing that "gave it to somebody" was a literal statement. My Father heard the conversation from the other room and called me away. I must be crazy. I must be an idiot. I better accept this guy's offer and race across the street to apologize to that kid and tell him the car has been sold. There was no viscosity between his position and my insistence that it was too late. I had already made a promise to a very excited neighbor. My Father was mad and disappointed in me for gracefully declining the offer. The friction was palpable.
That weekend, my friend invited me to her brother going away party. Her parents bought an old firehouse in Brooklyn and converted it into their home. Mattresses were in one corner, flagging a bedroom and a couch with a TV in another corner pretending to be a living room. It was an interesting party, where those fire engines once parked, but it got even better when her parents told her brother that they would not be moving his car back and forth every day for alternate side of the street parking requirements. That big Griswald mobile with the fake wooden side panels would surely be towed away. "Hey Rob, how would you like a station wagon?"
Yes. The same week that I gave away my beloved Camaro, he gave me that cargo-hauling gift that I would soon use to transport my life to Chicago with. It even had enough room to move one of my friends to the windy city with twice as much baggage.
I recalled that story many years later while sitting across the desk from my auto insurance agent. Opening his mail, he was surprised to find a gift certificate for two redeemable at a fine dining establishment that he liked to frequent. He was perplexed as to why he might have received a gift from this associate that he had always spoken so highly of. "I can't accept this gift "he said and proceeded to put it back in the envelope and begin drafting a response.
"What are you doing?" I asked. He began to explain how he wasn't able to help this person. We had a mildly overheated back and forth discussion about why he should or should not accept the gift. My argument in favor of receiving the gift graciously seemed to fall on deaf ears, and he continued to comply with his personal return policy.
I understood his position from a transactional perspective, but my experience has enlightened my opinion regarding the art of the gift. There is more under the hood than what first meets the eye.
Chevrolet President Pete Estes is quoted as saying; the name Camaro is "a name which is lithe and graceful. It suggests the comradeship of good friends as a personal car should be to its owner."
To be rigid in our relations and our exchanges breaks the true meaning and grace of life's beauty and energy. It really loses power when we supercharge our connection to money and things. I found God's economy to run smoothly on a much deeper level than the economy of quid pro quo or tit for tat. The value of a gift moves back and forth like a piston and transfers power through its movement. It is a transcendent blessing that moves in both directions. The recipient and the gift giver are both empowered. The possibilities for forward movement extend far beyond the range of the piston itself.
When I gave away that Camaro, I had no idea how much I had gained. It is not often that the timing moves from zero to sixty as quickly as we would like it to.
Not everyone gets to see the gift of a car within a week of the gifting of a car. That was truly a blessing, but not just because of the car itself and its practical assistance in getting me and a good friend to Chicago, but because I got to experience the inner workings of God's economy. I got a quick glimpse under the hood. There is some serious horsepower in that beautiful machine. Now I drive with the cotter pins out and less baggage.
When I continue to give boldly, and without hesitation, this engine is very responsive. I hope to blow the hood off of this incredible white stallion and see where this thing takes me next. Let's Open the door to this incredibly powerful gift that keeps on giving and take a ride. In God's economy, we need no baggage, and gas mileage is no problem, as long as we are traveling in the right direction and appreciate the gift of the journey.