by Arthur W. Griffith
At age 22, I was far from home. I had been totally deaf since contracting spinal meningitis at age seven. Although we were working in Illinois, my brother and I had decided to buy an old car, q uit our jobs and go out West “where the sky is a little bluer, and the friendships a little truer”. We had family members there.
World War II had just started, and soon gas rationing might make the trip impossible. In order to make the trip, I needed a driver’s license. It would be my first. I applied for a driver’s test, but as the appointment date came around, our car was laid up for repairs. What should I do?
Summoning my courage, I walked into a car sales showroom. I wasn’t really expecting any help, but a friendly, middle-aged salesman approached me. Back in 1942, many people felt that a deaf person should not even be allowed to drive. Still, I showed him a note explaining my dilemma.
The man read my note and looked at me kindly. Then he wrote: “I will take you. You can use my car.”
I could hardly believe it, and wrote, “Why are you doing this for me when you don’t even know me?” He wrote back, “My son is in the Army. I hope other people would help him, so now I’ll help you.”
The next day when my appointment was nearly due, I met him and he took me to his car. It was a nice Packard stick shift. After driving a few blocks, he stopped and wrote that I should drive it to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to get the feel of it first. Because I was nervous, my driving was slow and gear shifting was not all that easy, but he didn’t seem to mind.
He waited while I took the written test. I was gratified to pass with near-perfect marks. Then the officer took me out to the car. The owner was not allowed to ride with us. I was directed to drive around the block and park the car. I eased it out from the curb and guided it safely around, and parked it in the still empty space.
Hooray! I had passed.
My new friend seemed to feel as pleased as I did. I felt like hugging him. I knew I had a debt to repay by helping others. After 20 successful years working in machine shops, I spent the rest of my career as a pastor to the deaf, including five years in Washington, DC.
I have worn out many cars, but will never forget the man who placed his trust in me only minutes after we met, and helped me get my first driver’s license.