Veteran’s Character

Mick, a Vietnam veteran with a back full of shrapnel, diabetes, two bad knees and a recently replaced hip, hobbled around the little Suzuki Swift hatchback leaning heavily on two walking sticks.
In a gravelly voice and with the slow Aussie drawl of the bush and of his generation, he went on to point out all the flaws in the little car.
“You can see all the chips across the bonnet. Got a quote to repaint it for $500 but I wanted whoever buys it to see exactly what they are getting. Ya can’t have the plates though. They have her name on them.”

“What are you asking for it?” My husband opened the negotiations.
Mick straightened up, “I can’t go lower than $4,700.”
“Done. We’ll take it, thank you.” Normally Justin and I would confer but we both knew we didn’t need to.
We’d done our homework. It was a favourable price and we had no desire to haggle this man lower. It wasn’t pity or compassion, though we were both moved. It was his stoic, resolute openness, his integrity and manner. Refreshing honesty and vulnerability won us before the price was even mentioned. We knew he’d ask a fair price and we were prepared to meet it. So, done.

Mike had been widowed 6 months earlier and found it too painful to keep his wife’s car, let alone drive it. He looked rough and tough with a lined, leathery face and full beard, yet was extremely well mannered and not a negative word nor profanity dropped from his lips.

“I’m a mechanic and if you have any issues, you call me, and I’ll come down and make it right. The love of my life drove this car, so I made sure it was always in perfect working order.” He had even fixed spotlights to the front for extra safety while driving in rural Queensland.

The next day, I met Mike to transfer the papers and hand him an envelope of cash.
“I’ll count it out for you.”
“No, I trust you. I noticed you’re a fellow believer.” (Yeah, I know. Sounds weird but we can usually pick up the vibe of the genuine.)
“Mike, no. There are too many pretenders out there. I’ve written 2 books on fraud, remember? “Trust, but verify”.

We counted.

Driving him back to his property in rural Queensland, I asked about his pain. “How is it you are not a cranky old bugger?”
“What’s the point of that? It only makes me and everyone around me miserable. I’m thankful for what I do have. His grace keeps me going.”

The only time he darkened was when I asked if he marched on Anzac Day. “No. Never have. Never will. The government betrayed us, and we were treated like criminals when we came home. I live my own life. I serve my Maker.”
Fair enough.

Integrity is not a mission and values statement. It’s not a clever meme. It’s how you do business. It’s how you do life. Do both in a way that all parties prosper, and you’ll find a new joy and satisfaction in your work, a new level of mental freedom that supersedes stress and pain.

Posted in Resilience.