n Orlando for a family wedding back in May, my wife, Celia, and I did business with Budget Rent A Car. They gave us the keys to a 2006 Chevy HHR.
Never heard of it? We hadn’t either. And as we came upon the strange-looking creation in the agency’s parking lot, my first reaction was: “What on earth!”
Visions of gawkers staring us down as we would arrive the next day for the ceremony flooded my mind. “What an ugly car!” I kept saying. Had we not had to stand in line for an hour and 20 minutes to rent it (the agency’s computers were down), I probably would have returned to the counter and demanded a replacement.
Though we had a comfortable ride to the Holiday Inn, the car still looked ugly as we approached it the next morning. But something happened. There was an envelope on the windshield. “Hope you enjoy your HHR,” said the card inside, signed: “Joe Higgins, HHR Launch Team, GM (retired).” That was sooo cool!
Wow! I thought. This vehicle is no fluke! There are living, breathing human beings behind it! One of them had actually checked into the same hotel with us, had observed the vehicle, and was proud enough to leave a signed message, with an e-mail contact address to boot!
Almost instantly my impression of the strange-looking machine changed. Suddenly it had become something of value, something to be admired—cherished even. That afternoon, as we hit the highway for the reception, it was like floating on air. The car drove excellent and maneuvered superbly, and every touch of the pedal spelled “power.”
Higgins’ card later drove me to the Internet. I learned that the vehicle, which hit showrooms in the summer of 2005, was designed as a cross between a 1949 Suburban and an SSR Roadster (pickup truck). The retro-styled model’s acronym, HHR, stands for heritage high roof—referring to the vehicle’s high ceiling, a feature I quickly grew to like for its roominess. In an e-mail, Higgins informed me that he’d “recently retired from GM after 42 years in engineering,” and that one of his last assignments was the HHR launch. Just a week before he wrote me, he and about a dozen others received “the GM Chairman’s Honor Award for work on the HHR,” the first time such an award was given to a product team at GM, he believes.
I don’t remember anyone noticing the vehicle at the wedding. But the following morning as we ate breakfast at a restaurant, I could see departing patrons studying it. More than once I said to my wife: “Just look at those folks staring at that car!” Two guys, hands in pockets, examined it for what seemed like two straight minutes, walking around it, looking inside it, my esteem growing as I watched them.
By the time we finally emerged from the eatery, my comfort level soaring, I was ready to pose for pictures beside my new treasure.
The transformation in my attitude suggested an important spiritual lesson. When I taught seminary, I could hardly wait to come to the place in my lecture where I’d call attention to Ellen G. White’s statement in The Ministry of Healing: “The lost coin, in the Savior’s parable, though lying in the dirt and rubbish, was a piece of silver still. Its owner sought it because it was of value. So every soul, however degraded by sin, is in God’s sight accounted precious.”*
I know. The comparison doesn’t hold in every particular. The HHR is not evil or “degraded” in any sense. My only point here is that what at first appeared terribly ugly to me had been transformed overnight into a thing of beauty. And what made all the difference was that I’d heard from one of its creators.
My memories of the whole HHR experience in Orlando are now all positive. And that’s because I’d “met” one of the model’s creators. That encounter added value to the product. The secret of valuing people—all people—is to “meet” their Creator. Immediately they become beautiful in our eyes, because we come to see that they’re beautiful in the eyes of God.