I made a trip to visit our college senior this weekend. Saturday marked his last, first fall college baseball scrimmage. Oh, how time flies. I took him to breakfast: “One check or two?” she asked. “Really? You have to ask!?” When we got to the field, he pointed out the flat tire on his truck. “What do I do about that?” he said. “Really? You have to ask?!”

A few minutes later I walked into the tire shop in town. (Clinton is a small town.) The owner didn’t recognize me, and I almost didn’t recognize him – it’s been almost 40 years. But I called my name, and his eyes flashed, “I thought you looked familiar!”

I told him what I needed, and despite the other three men waiting in the waiting room, the cars lined up at the repair bays, he said, “Back up right here, and let me take a look.” A few minutes later I was on my way back to the field with a patched tire. “ – and you don’t owe me anything, but do tell your parents I said hello, OK?”

I mused over this generosity, which is one of the liabilities of being a preacher and writer. I ought to just say thanks and go on my way, but I’ve never been able to leave things un-considered like that. (Good sermon illustration? Topic of another blog post? Just another key to the meaning of the universe? .

 So as I’m driving, I’m processing: “In the grand scheme of things (Wait, it’s just a tire!), yeah, but in the grander scheme of things what does that mean? What are the implications? Why not charge me? Did the other three guys waiting get the same smile and service, gratis? In the grand scheme of things (since nothing is ‘just a tire’) does the owner think some divine favor accrues to his account by helping out minister’s kid? (I’m not sure he knows what I do, but my dad was the pastor of the Baptist church just down the street for almost three decades.) Does he make up for what he gave me by charging the next guy a little more? Enough, already… get to the baseball game!”

In the grand scheme of things, I don’t know what it means. I do know that of all the things my mom and dad gave me, out of their hard-work and modest means was their name.

     “A good name is better than great riches…” so the Good Book says.

Which makes me wonder, again, about the grand scheme of things. (I said it was a liability.) What about our names? The name I’m giving my own sons… The name our church has developed in Charlotte … And what about our nation’s name in the sweep of history and among the community of nations?

It seems to me that we mostly have the great riches under control. Maybe we ought to concentrate a bit more on the good name.