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Life is relationships, and the ultimate relationship is with God

      Exactly one mile down the road from where I live is Ed’s Garage (not the actual name). I’ve been taking my cars there to have the oil changed, tires rotated (done free if the tires are purchased there, which mine are), a new battery installed and to fix the occasional malfunctioning brake light, since we moved here 11 years ago.

      The face of Ed’s Garage is Cindy (not her real name). She works the counter and the phones. When you call to make an appointment to have the oil changed in your car, you talk to her. When you come to pick up your car once the oil change is completed, Cindy is the one who takes your credit card. Cindy is in her late 20s, perhaps early 30s (I’m horrible at guessing a person’s age).

      She has two small children. She has a great gift of gab. Cindy knows her customers. How’s the kids? How are things at school? Going anywhere this summer? None of that is perfunctory, either; she is sincere.

      Four stools stand at the counter, and people like to sit and gab with Cindy, but not only with Cindy. Ed walks by behind the counter with paperwork for a car that’s just had that new battery installed. Ed stops and says something like, “Hey, how about those Corsairs (the nickname of the school where I teach) going to state?”

      We talk about that for a moment before Ed skedaddles back to the floor of the garage. Speaking of talking, smack dab in the middle of the foyer of the place is a bird cage, and within the cage is a parrot!

      The location of Ed’s Garage is convenient. Yes, it’s only a mile from my house, but it’s also right on my way to school or church or just about anywhere else. I can get in and out of the place in no time. Furthermore, when I do drop off the car for service, I don’t have to tell Cindy the make or model of my car or even where I parked the car. She knows which car it is and where it’s at.

      Several months ago, Ed sold his business to a corporate group. Ed’s gone, as well as all the other mechanics that I saw there over the years. Prices spiked. The new personnel are clad in matching polos, right down to the color.

      But Cindy is still there. For now, anyway. Corporate understands her value to their company, that she knows the community. Corporate knows that you don’t cut off one’s nose to spite one’s face.

      Ed’s Garage was just that: a place to have your car serviced. That’s all it was. In the grand scheme of things, Ed’s Garage was a blip on the radar of life. Yet, the place was comforting, the employees competent and friendly, and the banter was exquisite.

      To wax sentimental about a car garage seems unseemly, I know, but here’s my point. Nothing lasts. You find a good thing, it lasts for a moment, and then it’s gone. You meet people all during your life, and they move away, or you move away. You say to one another that you’ll keep in touch, but you don’t, and before you know it, that person, that friend, is just a memory that grows more dim with each passing year.

      Your children move away, your spouse dies, and you look back on all that, and you ask yourself, what was that all about? If it were all so important, so meaningful, so glorious, why did it all vanish?

      The struggle is with meaning.

      Nothing lasts. Except God. And only God gives life meaning. Without God, life is merely a sequence of random events, thoughts, images, desires and problems that only thwart – or enhance – my ego.

      Ed’s Garage was a small way of God showing me that life has meaning. Rubber, metal, plastic, iron, tubing, and computer bits were the composing parts and purpose of the place, but not its meaning. Its meaning went beyond its purpose. Its meaning, ultimately, was relationship.

      And so it goes with all those friends who moved away and with whom you have lost contact. And so it goes with the spouse who was at your side for so many years, but who has now been taken from you. Life is not a sequence of random events. Life is a relationship, and the ultimate relationship is with God. The Good News is that those relationships forged in this life will reach fulfillment in the next.

      Cindy is still there. The parrot, and its cage, are not.

     

      Deacon Mark Plaiss teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, Ill. He is an oblate of Saint Meinrad Archabbey. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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