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Free.

That’s what the sign said on the old dishwasher by the side of the road.

I pondered a bit.

I knew we were about to move, and we’d lived in a house for a year that had had a wonderfully remodeled kitchen, which included a dishwasher, and I didn’t know if the next house would have one.

I took the piece of paper taped to the dishwasher, walked up the driveway, found the owner working in his garage, and asked the first question that came to mind:

“Does it work?”

“Worked the last time it was used.”

That was good enough for me, so since it was on wheels (it was considered a ‘portable’ dishwasher) I pushed it home.

I don’t know what drivers thought as they saw me, waiting to cross the street, pushing a dishwasher, but I did have to wait for traffic to clear, and I did get some weird looks…

Oh well.

I got it home safely, put it in the garage, and left it there so that it’d be ready to move to the new house when that time came.

And what’s weird is that I moved it from one garage to another (there wasn’t room in the kitchen, or living room, and I sure as heck wasn’t going to try to lug the ‘portable’ dishwasher up and down the stairs).  So it was one of the first things to go into the new garage.

In the back corner.

On the right.

And it got covered up by boxes of stuff from the old house that needed a temporary place to stay.

And it was forgotten.

For about 10 years.

One spring, I was off work for a bit, realizing I’d accumulated a lot of – well, crap, and set about cleaning out the garage.

I felt strangely like Howard Carter as I shined a flashlight into dark areas of the garage that hadn’t seen the light of day in at least a decade.

And amidst all the boxes, and dust, and cobwebs, (cue the dramatic lighting and suspenseful music) there, untouched for years, I found the dishwasher again.

No, there wouldn’t be any great exhibits of The Dishwasher That Tom Found In His Garage, but it sure wasn’t going into the house again, so as I stood there, in the dusty garage, I realized I’d have to get rid of it.  I didn’t want to take it to the dump. (that would cost money, and I’d need to come up with a way of getting it there, and who knew, someone might be able to use it).

I looked down the full length of the garage, out the door, and saw the cars passing by, and an idea started to grow in my noggin.

You see, we live on a busy street, and we have seen where people who are trying to get rid of things just put a sign on them that says, “FREE” in large, block letters, and then set them on the sidewalk in front of the house.

Generally, whatever is there disappears in a day or so.

It’s like magic.

I smiled, and decided to try this.

I got a huge marker, a piece of paper, and a couple of pieces of tape and pushed the dishwasher down the driveway to the sidewalk.

Since the dishwasher was on rollers, and going downhill, I had to steady it to keep it from rolling into the street.  When I got it stopped, I put the paper on the top, kind of tacked it on with the strips of tape so it would stay still while I got to work with the marker.  I wrote FREE in big block letters, then filled them in one by one.

And – well, this next part happened much faster than it will take to write it, and actually, faster than it will take you to read it, but here goes:

I lined up the top of the sheet of paper along the edge of the dishwasher, pushed both pieces of tape down hard so they’d stick, flipped the paper down so drivers could see the word “FREE” there, and turned to my right to walk back up the driveway.

Before I’d taken a single step, I heard the sound of tortured tires clawing the biggest hunk of Detroit steel I’d ever seen in my life to a stop.

I turned fully around, prepared to run to escape, only to see the trunk of that hunk of Detroit steel come crashing back to the ground, almost like in a cartoon.

The driver hadn’t pulled over, he’d just stopped in his lane, and was completely blocking traffic.

He came flying around the driver’s side of the car, pulled the piece of paper I’d just stuck onto the dishwasher off and shoved it at me.

I reflexively took it as I heard him ask,

“Does it work?”

And for a moment, time, as we know it, stood still, (cue the dramatic lighting again, bring up the suspenseful music) and then I heard myself using the same words I’d heard years earlier in front of this same dishwasher, under almost exactly the same conditions,

“Worked the last time it was used.”

That was good enough for him, and he opened a trunk that was big enough for an entire mafia hit, including the horse’s head, hefted the dishwasher over the trunk lip, dumped it in head first, strapped a couple of bungee cords to hold the trunk lid shut, jumped into the car and roared off.

I stood there, beside the road in front of the house, watching the smoke and traffic clear as the car roared away, the piece of paper in my hand still flapping a little in the breeze, and realized I should have given it back to him.

In 10 years or so, he’d need it.

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Some time ago, my family and I went through a journey I hope none of you have to go through, but statistics being what they are, some of you will.  As I’m looking forward to this new year, I got to thinking, and I found this piece I’d written a few years ago about that situation and thought I’d share.  Understand, this was written about something specific to me, but the lessons can be applied almost anywhere.

During this – and it’s fairly safe to call it a crisis – there were many times when I wanted to know from people who would, and should have the answers, “What should I expect?” – and without fail, I was told, “Everyone’s different…”.

Bottom line, “I can’t tell you what it will be like because I don’t know…”

Bottom line: “The mind being what it is, I don’t want to tell you what it will be like because these things can easily become self fulfilling prophecies, so if I give you bad news, it could make things worse for you.”

Bottom line: “I don’t know if you can handle knowing what you’re up against now.  If I tell you it’s going to be bad, just telling you might affect the outcome. If I tell you it’s going to be good, and it isn’t, then – well, then you would rightfully be upset with me, so the answer is…”

“Everyone’s different.”

In all of this – I had a dream…

A father and young son are going down a steep, rocky path.  The father has a flashlight and is guiding the son.  The father sees things in the dark, at the edges of the light, that he knows would scare the child, and so, doesn’t shine the light on them.  The child sees enough to keep moving forward, but not enough to know that the path they’re walking on is on the edge of a cliff.

The child has to trust that the father knows what he’s doing, and where he’s going.  And as long as the child holds his Father’s hand, no matter how long the journey, or how difficult, the Father will be with him, beside him to help him when he stumbles, to support him when he is weak, to encourage him when he is tired, to cheer when he is sad.

This does not mean the journey will be easy, nor will the way be smooth, but the Father will be alongside.

Always.

May God bless you this new year.

…and in this New Year, may you not be alone, may you have a hand to hold, and may you be able to trust the Light that guides you.

Tom Roush

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