Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Gracefulness, Gratefulness, and the Car Industry

One thing you'll learn about me is that I get a lot of insights on the road, or related to what I see on the road. That's one of the blessings of my job, which has me quite often putzing around the Memphis area. Today was no different.

Tonight a commercial caught my eye from GM. As you might have already heard, GM has just paid back the money it owed the government for its bailout, plus interest. What really amazed me was that the spokesman expressed a very graceful attitude towards his company's detractors, including those who were against government intervention. I won't be getting into that argument here.

But here's what he said: "A lot of Americans didn't agree with giving GM a second chance. Quite frankly, I can respect that." (Listen here.)

When was the last time you heard someone express real respect towards their opponents in other realms, like politics? Religion?

You might argue that this is a move intended to generate sales. And it certainly is. But here's the interesting thing. GM is a company that has had to learn the hard way what it means to be utterly, totally dependent on an outside source for its very survival. GM had a lot that needed forgiveness...and we as Christians know that the proper response to forgiveness is gratitude, and that to turn around and express an ungrateful attitude towards others after we have been forgiven is to spit upon the gift of grace Jesus extends to us.

That made me consider another car-related experience I had today. After a mishap in a parking garage, I had some scrapes on the side of my car I needed to repaint, and my car has a hard-to-get paint color. The first dealership I called for information about the paint was one that has found out they will be closed as a result of the recession. The paint was not in stock, but I got the impression they really didn't want to help me; they told me to go somewhere else.

The second dealership I called was Sunrise, a GM dealer. They also didn't have the paint on hand, but they didn't jump telling me to go somewhere else before I had a chance to get a word in edgewise. They were actually willing to have a conversation with me, and were glad to order what I need. That wasn't the first time in recent months I'd had a great experience at Sunrise after a not-so-great one at the other dealership. In the previous case, they had told me they would honor my warranty--and when they got on the phone with GM found out they couldn't. Even though they couldn't get GM to pay, even though they surely needed every dollar, they ate the loss without even being asked. They stood by their word, and that's not something I forget.

That brings up the other part of maintaining a graceful attitude, I think...understanding that we truly have something to be grateful for. God did not leave us adrift after our expulsion from Paradise--He dove into the dangerous waters of this world to save us.

I mean no insult to anyone affiliated with the dealership that's on the chopping block, but I think that maybe the issue there is that they've simply given up...and with nothing to hope for, what good is the present moment? Why worry about each customer interaction when there is no longer any long-term reputation to be concerned with? It's understandable, and very human...and I really do feel bad for the people working in that situation. Still, it's unfortunate to behold.

Sunrise, on the other hand, got the reprieve along with the rest of GM. They know they have something to hope for, and I believe they work out of gratitude for what truly was a gift extended towards their company even though many believed it to be undeserving. They are aware of grace. And that grace has prompted them to show respect and kindness to those who come through their doors.

I think this is a lesson that we as Christians should learn--we, just like GM, have gotten ourselves into such a state that we are utterly and totally dependent upon outside salvation for our survival. We do not stand upon our own two feet as we like to think we do...we must kneel. For we have that salvation--we have something to hope for...and just as we have been shown kindness and mercy, shouldn't we show that to others? What excuse do we have to be cold and unforgiving?


  1. Interesting post. We have a similar situation with the banks being bailed out over here in the UK, though they aren't showing as much thanks as we'd like! Its great to be able to bring out analogies like this and see characteristics of God. I look forward to seeing more of your posts.

  2.'re my very first commenter and follower!

    Some of our companies over here still aren't behaving so well, but that definitely made GM stick out in a good way. And even if this passes--as many of our best attitudes do--I still think it makes a great example. :-)