It’s December and it seems that people are more in the giving spirit this time of year. The Christmas tree is up with festively wrapped presents under it, and the house and yard outside are decorated and lit up like John Jaikes rolling down the road at night in his KW. Giving does not always have to be a big expensive gift. I think we have gotten away from the gifts that mean the most. As drivers, we are gone a lot, and the time we have at home or the time we make happen with family and friends is the most important gift we can give.
There are so many little things that we can do to make a big difference to people who are struggling in these tough times. Some of these things could even become family traditions that are not only done at Christmas, because giving should be done throughout the year. And when someone does something nice for you, you should always “pay it forward” and do something nice for someone else, in return. Here are a few ideas I found while talking with some friends.
Talking with one of our friends Kate Morgan about this subject gave me the idea for this month’s article. She saw that someone was wrapping blankets in plastic and placing them on park benches and other places like that where people in need could get them. We talked about other ideas that we had seen before as well, like carrying along small brown paper bags with a few food items and a can of soda to give to someone standing on a corner instead of giving money.
I remember one night when going to a delivery in Chicago and, at the end of the ramp, was an old man. I had seen him there the week before, too. It was fall and getting colder outside. I had an old blanket that was clean, so when I stopped at the light, I motioned for him to come over and I gave it to him. He thanked me, and the big grateful smile on his face was priceless. Be kind and help someone else, because we never know when we might need help, and others will need to be there for us.
Recently, we lost a dear friend named Gene Feld from Germantown, WI. Gene was the founder of D & G Transportation Inc. “Home of the Big Iron.” I was leased to D & G twice in my career, and Gene was so proud of the company he built and the trucks that were leased to him. There are two visits we had with Gene that are precious to us. On his 82nd birthday we got to visit him at the yard. We gave him one of John’s diecast trucks from the 2019 Walcott Trucker’s Jamboree, and he was thrilled. He also told me every morning he still drank his coffee out of the cup I gave him 20 years ago, which had a picture of my old truck “Illusion” on it.
Those of you who know John know that if there is any way possible, he will make time for a visit with people. A long time ago he told a friend, “I’ll see you next time.” Well, a few days later, that friend passed away and there would be no next time.
Three months to the day prior to Gene passing away, John called Sandi Wimbish, Gene’s daughter, to see if she could join us for supper that night. She told John that her mom and dad were at the yard celebrating Judy’s retirement (she had been with the company for 30 years). We immediately turned around and headed back to Germantown. Marge (Gene’s wife) and Sandi warned us that Gene might not remember us, as he had dementia. I will forever be thankful for this time we got to spend with them. He did remember both of us, and Gene made sure to tell John to take good care of me. Rest in Peace, Gene. You are missed. Our condolences to the family and all his friends.
While out on the road, sometimes it works out that we cross paths with friends on the highways of our great country. If you have the time, make sure you use it spending time with a friend. Two years ago, Desiree Hegedus was in Wisconsin, and we got to spend a great day together. We visited the Holy Hill Basilica, the surfing skeleton display, an apple orchard, had dinner at the Water Street Brewery, and then we went to a haunted house – the first one I had ever been to. It was a great day of memories made. Desiree had been at our wedding two months prior with her daughter Madison. They drove all the way from Massachusetts to join us, and Madison shared her 14th birthday with us on our wedding day and had a good time. John and I are so grateful for the video that Desiree made of us exchanging our vows – a priceless gift, for sure.
We got to spend time with Mike Gaffin (The Boston Trucker) and his wife Norma and his two kids, Nathan and Simone, on a couple of occasions. One time they were in Pennsylvania on a vacation, and we just happened to be home. We had pizza and ice cream and a wonderful visit. The other was our wedding. They made our wedding part of their vacation in 2021 and Mike stood up with us. Mike has so much trucking history in pictures, and when he shares them, it’s like taking a trip down memory lane. Pictures are the gift of preserving a time that will never happen again.
Small acts of kindness go a long way, whether you are giving them or receiving them. A few examples would include opening a door for someone, especially if they have their hands full, saying please and thank you, and letting someone in while in traffic. If you are just sitting there, why not extend someone the courtesy? I know how much that I appreciate this when someone does it for me. I always appreciate it when I’m at a light and someone stays back to give me the room I need to go around the corner with the truck. If you are on a bus and it’s full, get up and let an elderly person sit down instead of standing.
Always try to be a good neighbor. Some communities won’t let you bring a truck into them, but for the ones that do, be considerate and try to keep the noise to a minimum and park where you are not in the way. If you are on the road and there isn’t anyone home, it’s nice to have a neighbor you can trust to keep an eye on things around your house. Pass down a precious heirloom, keep it in the family, and tell the story about it so the next generation can pass it on to the next and it doesn’t lose the meaning of how important it really was… and then just end up at a Goodwill store.
John is all about the number 24 and it’s all because of Jeff Gordon and his Hendrick #24 race car. This year a friend gave him the ultimate gift and we appreciate him so much! Because of him we were able to be in the pits at the Las Vegas race in November and John got to talk to and get his picture with Jeff. John wasn’t worried about an autograph – the picture together was what he’d always wanted. Now his driver is Kyle Larson in the #5, and he got his picture with him and his crew chief Cliff Daniels, along with other members of the team, as well. This was a gift money couldn’t buy.
We have so many friends who are givers. Our very own Mark Harter is one of them. If you need a truck found, call him and it’s like magic – he finds it. If you need information and he doesn’t know it, chances are he can find it. He truly deserves the title “Truckapedia” because he is a trucking encyclopedia (remember those). We need more young people like our friend Jacob Murray who gives the gift of laughter every day. In our conversations, he gets so tickled, and when he sings “You are my sunshine” to our neighbor Pat, it makes her day every time. The time we get to spend with him is always fun and memorable.
I have a picture frame at home that says “The Best Things in Life Aren’t Things” and I have a picture of my two dogs, Mr. H and his mom Bee, in it. Things are nice and we need things to live, but they aren’t everything. Hold on to the gift of the time we get to spend with the ones who mean the most. This crosses over with the story we recently did about our trucking friends, but in reality, they go hand in hand. No one can quite understand what we truckers really do like the ones who do it, too.
Our world has gotten pretty harsh, it seems, but if more of us would share the gift of kindness we can help make the world a little better place. Little things can go a long way, and never decide not to do something just because you are afraid. That one little thing might be exactly what that person needs at that very moment. And be sure to appreciate the ones who take the time to help you, because remember, they don’t have to. Here’s wishing you a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year! Now go out and make someone’s day!!