What makes you happy? For me, finding light in a parking garage!

It’s another day after work…and I haven’t been able to shake the blues for several days. I take the elevator down to the gloomy, musty underground garage to pick up my car – no wonder this does absolutely nothing to lift my spirits. The parking manager stands stone-faced in the pay booth while an attendant goes to retrieve my car.

Even in my funk, I’m grateful for the guys who dart to and from cars, enduring a shortage of fresh air, windowless dirty cement and preoccupied customers. So I muster up a personable question. “How was your weekend?”

“OK,” he responds without expression or movement.

“Do anything special?” I ply a little further. “Not really,” he says, sliding outside the pay booth toward me. “Just slept, I was really tired.”

“I know those kinds of weekends,” I say, thinking how lethargic I’ve been, “when you just want to rest and do nothing.” He smiles.

I don’t know his name. He took over management of the garage a few months ago, and we’ve barely said “hello.” From somewhere within my darkness there must be a flicker of light – I feel an urge to keep the conversation going.

“So, what do you do…when you’re not here?” I ask.

“I race cars,” he says, straightening up and taking a deep breath. By now, we’re face to face, and I nod.

“I buy ‘em when they’re junk and fix ‘em up and race ‘em.” I don’t completely follow his car-talk about parts and mechanics, but as he picks up his pace, I hang in there with him. “My daddy was a racer. When I was six, he sat me down in the seat next to him, put a helmet on my head and strapped me in.” He jerks his head, “My head bobbed back and forth the whole way ‘round the track. Right then,” he says, “I knew this is what I wanted to do. I’ve been building cars and racing ever since. I pick up scrap cars, and in my workshop we strip ‘em down and rebuild ‘em.”

My car arrives – not a racer by any means. I begin to get in, then stop. My car can wait. This man has loved racing since he was a child – who does he share his passion with? I really want to know.

“Do you have kids? Do they race?” I ask.

“My older daughter – she’s 26 – no way! She won’t have anything to do with it.” He sounds disappointed but resigned. “But her daughter, she’s six. She wants to ride with me. I’ve got hopes for her!” I see a gleam of expectation in his eyes. One way or other, he’s going to pass along his passion, and it might be to his granddaughter.

As I drive up the garage ramp into daylight, even my spirits lift. That nudge – to get out of myself and pay attention to someone else – breaks the spell of personal gloominess. Being a car-devotee isn’t totally new to me. Another friend painstakingly rebuilds cars for racing, and I’ve seen first-hand the patience, persistence, and skill this requires. But to have a stranger open up and share his passion – well, that puts a smile on my face!

So even in dark times, the light within never goes out. A mere breath of gratitude, a slight caring feeling for someone else fans the spark. And what a benefit…a new experience of another person sharing the light within himself. This light that never goes out – I felt it again in an underground garage. And that makes me happy!