“I don’t ever want you to drive a car that someone else would covet.”
This was my dad’s mantra when it came to cars. And he did a great job of living it out.
Case in point: My first car was a gray Chevy Caprice. It had been my great grandpa’s car and we inherited it when he passed away.
I didn’t have the money to buy a car and had just gotten my license, so my dad designated the Caprice as my car.
It wasn’t pretty, but it was in great condition (my great grandpa had taken meticulous care of it) and had low mileage (my grandpa bought it new and had had it for a number of years but didn’t drive but within a 20-mile radius of his home).
We called it the “Gray Boat” — because that’s sort of what it looked like. It was a big car, it was gray, and it didn’t really fit young and petite me.
But it was a car, it had four wheels, it rarely ever had issues (I can only think of one time that I ended up stranded on the road with it — and that was because of a simple little issue with wiring!), and it was incredibly trustworthy for all the driving I did while I was in my late teens.
(I taught violin lessons to a number of different students and drove to their houses to teach, worked as a waitress, and worked as a mother’s helper and babysitter. So I spent a lot of my day driving from place to place!)
I learned so much by driving the Gray Boat and I truly believe that my dad’s desire to “give us cars that no one would covet” was one of the best things he could have done for me as a teenager. Here are three powerful lessons I learned:
1. It Taught Me to Worry Less About What Other People Think
When you drive a “clunker car”, you quickly have to check your pride at the curb. And honestly, if people judge me by the car I drive, they are not the kind of people I want to be close friends with.
Learning this lesson at an early age meant I went into marriage with a lot more freedom and a lot less need to feel I had to apologize about or give an explanation behind the cars I’ve driven or the frugal lifestyle choices we’ve made.
2. It Taught Me Gratitude For What I Have
My dad was kind to let me use the car as my own. Other than paying for my gas, he paid for any car repairs (or did them himself) and paid for my insurance. I’m grateful that he was generous to do this.
I drove that car with gratitude both to my dad and to my great grandpa. And it was a little way I felt a connection to my great grandpa even though he had passed away.
3. It Taught Me That Contentment Isn’t About Stuff
The biggest lesson I learned from driving that car was that you can be plenty fulfilled and happy while driving a car that isn’t all that eye-appealing. Contentment is a state of the heart that is unaffected by your outside circumstances. You can choose to be content even when you are driving an old car, wearing very used clothes, and eating lots of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Knowing this to the core of my being has been a huge gift to my life. It’s caused me to have so much more joy, to embrace life exactly where I am, and to make the most of right where I’ve been planted instead of wishing I could be in someone else’s shoes.
I drove that Gray Caprice up until marriage — when my husband and I bought his family’s old white mini van and that became my new mode of transportation! And I went into marriage a firm believer that Old Used Cars can be a blessing in disguise — to the tune of thousands of dollars in savings!
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