Posted: June 1, 2007 in Peace

I named my blog after a song buried on Mellencamp’s Scarecrow album, one of my favorites of all time. It tells the story of a young man’s conversation with an old man on a Greyhound bus. The old man’s hard-earned wisdom sticks with the young man and proves inspirational in his life.

The song is emblematic of the entire album in a way. Mellencamp dedicated the album to his dad, Speck, and offered the following original quote to sum up his work: “There is nothing more sad or glorious than generations changing hands.”

It makes me think of my dad.

This morning, I played out my favorite song somewhat, though the location was the waiting room at Wal-Mart’s Tire & Lube Express instead of a Greyhound bus. But the gist of the conversation was basically the same.

One of the rear tires of my car was really low a while back. I put some air in it, and, reflecting my intellect, hoped that some alien had just borrowed a little air from the tire and that it wouldn’t lose air again. On the second and third occasions I put air in it, I chose not to think about it at all. On the fourth occassion, befitting someone as smart as me, I thought that I should probably get it fixed. So after the fifth occasion, I decided to go to the American mechanic, Wal-Mart.

I arrived before 7am this morning in an attempt to beat the crowd. It worked. I even beat the employees there. So I got right in when they showed up, and I went to the waiting room with my work bag to plan a class and a sermon.

Then, an old man walked in.

It wasn’t completely the irony that the class I was planning was the same class in which I taught last Sunday that “the way of Jesus” was a personal way, and that noticing people was more like Jesus than anything else we could do. It wasn’t completely the irony, but it helped.

So I struck up a conversation.

I learned that the old man is 81 years old, and that he was getting a new set of tires so he could evacuate to West Virginia again for the next hurricane. “Always plan ahead,” he said. He expounded, “That’s the problem with everyone today. Everyone’s in such a d*$% hurry that no one thinks past what’s right in front of their noses.”

I agreed.

I told him that my dad never let his gas tank drop below a half-tank before filling up. My new friend does the same. It turned out that my dad and this old man had quite a bit in common. Their fueling habits, of course, but they were also sailors in the Pacific in World War II. They both cussed like it, too. They both had low opinions of the doctors that rushed through medical school to serve in the war, and they both had experiences to prove it.

But my new friend was from Pennsylvania originally, not Missouri. And he stayed in the military after the war, going on to serve in the Korean War, too, instead of getting out and becoming a butcher. And my new friend is still alive, while my dad has been gone for going on thirteen years now.

But I met a real human being today full of hard-earned wisdom, and he reminded me that I shouldn’t be in such a blankety-blank hurry.

And he reminded me of my dad, whom I still miss terribly.

And when I left, for just a moment, when I looked into his eyes and exchanged a firm handshake, I reconnected with a fading generation that I cannot forget.

  1. Lisa says:


    I am becoming more and more aware of my need to slow down. I appreciate others sharing good examples of slowing down. It’s so easy to get in such a rush!!

  2. Al Sturgeon says:

    Thanks, Lisa. I’m with you, but I think I’m in the beginners class.

  3. LindseyBluett says:

    You know Al, Im alot like you , in that I am always striking up conversation with someone in line or in waiting rooms. I think that slowing down a bit would be a good thing for me. Seems theres always one more thing to do after I have rushed to do the last.

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