“I live a small but valuable life—Meg Ryan line from “You’ve Got Mail.”

“God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God”—1 Corinthians 1:28,29.

Sometime in the 1970s I bought my first stereo, a Radio Shack STA-16 receiver and two MC-500 speakers, plus a turntable. I enjoyed that system for years and years until finally the receiver started giving me problems. I took it to a hoity-toity stereo shop in Homewood, AL for repair. They glanced at the unit and quoted me some exorbitant price just for walking in the door, then said “You don’t want to spend that kind of money for something like this, do you” (emphasis mine)?

They disdained in their snobbery my little cheap receiver that had served me well. I took it elsewhere, of course, and got it repaired. Finally, just a few years ago, the front panel would no longer illuminate. But I couldn’t part with it, I guess for sentimental reasons. I put it in storage, which is where it stayed until today.

I was going to throw it away, but I wanted to make sure it contained no hazardous materials. I called the local store, and Lee, the manager, told me that there was no reason I couldn’t toss it. But then he asked what model it was. On finding that out, he told me he was interested in repairing it for a customer.

When I took the receiver and speakers to Lee, and he opened the box, his face lit up. The speakers were the same ones he bought when he was in high school in 1974. The receiver was just the right size for his customer to have in his garage. The man was recovering from cancer and wanted something simple and lightweight in his workshop. “He’s going to be thrilled,” Lee told me.

I was reminded of two things today: 1) not all payment is with money; the good feeling I got from talking with Lee and knowing his customer was going to be happy was better compensation for the stereo than any amount I could have gotten; and 2) the small, old, uncomplicated, and inexpensive things of this world may be despised by some (like those snobbish stereo salesmen), but they will bring joyous exclamations and broad smiles from just the right person at just the right time.

A man whose name I will never know will have enjoyment in his illness because I “happened” to pick up the phone today. Imagine that.

© 2013 Tom Cheatham. All rights reserved.

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