Thanks, Carl and Andalusia, for example

Published 12:32 am Saturday, August 6, 2016

I want to share an experience my family had last week when two of my four daughters, Aneissa and Alayna Coulter, were traveling from Louisville, Ky., to Florida, with friends from a student ministry group they joined in middle school. One of the leaders, Sherry Stumph, has been a second mother to many of them, and invited the core group of students on a trip to Florida before they moved off to college.

Sherry gathered the group together before they left and prayed that God would take this path before them, guiding them on a safe journey. The group then loaded up in two vehicles and headed south on I-65, cruising through Kentucky, Tennessee and most of Alabama. They exited I-65 on to AL-55 South with a couple hours to go when my daughter Aneissa’s vehicle broke down. She was the oldest of the group at 19, other than Sherry.

When she called, they were on the side of a two-lane road and could go no further. I made sure she had the number for our roadside assistance and told her to call for a wrecker while I started googling auto repair shops in the area. At 4:30 p.m. on a Saturday, I had little hope for finding a repair shop open in rural Alabama, but I was hoping there was someone working late.

After calling several numbers and getting no answer, I looked at my wife, standing anxiously by my side with that look. I said, “I guess I am driving to Alabama tonight.”

The temperature that day was nearing 100 degrees and they were stuck on the side of a two-lane road. My thought was that they would have to have the vehicle towed to some small country auto repair shop, somehow find a hotel, and be stuck until it got fixed, hopefully on Monday. They would lose several days of their vacation, or as I mentioned, I would be on my way to Alabama to trade them out my truck and I would be the one waiting until Monday. This trip meant so much to all of them that I was going to do whatever I had to do.

Then my cell phone started vibrating. A call was coming in from an Alabama area code. I answered, only to hear a man’s voice on the other end. “Randy? This is Carl from C1 Custom Truck and auto repair in Andalusia, Ala. I see you tried to call me?”

He had his shop number forwarded to his cell phone, and had seen he had missed a call. I explained the situation and asked him if he could help. He said that his shop was closed and that he had no mechanic until Monday morning. I decided right there that I was sending the tow truck with vehicle to his shop anyway, just because he took the time to call me back.

I told him about the kids, and asked him about a weekend service station, a hotel and a possible car rental place. He said most places close early on Saturday and this was going to be a difficult task.

We were interrupted by my daughter, Aneissa, who was trying to call me back, so I had to let him go. She informed me that the wrecker was on the way but might take an hour or so. They were stuck for a while, but going to make the best of it.

My phone rang again, and it was Carl. He said he had been trying to find a rental car or someone who could repair the car, but had had no luck. Then Carl explained that he was from a Christian family and had four daughters, too. He said he wanted to help. He had changed his plans and he was headed back to his house to pick up his wife and meet the kids where they were broken down 25 miles away. He explained that he was going to let them sit in his car so they could get out of the heat and not have to ride back in the tow truck. He also told me that he was going to take care of everything, so that I did not have to come to Alabama and the girls would not miss their vacation. He said he would work it all out with them and had felt that it was his responsibility to look after the group.

Now, you can imagine all the things that were going through my mind. The main thing was, “Is this guy serious? Why does he want to help? Is he a danger to the girls?” (Too many episodes of Criminal Minds on TV)

I didn’t know this guy, but there was something about talking to him, that I knew he was genuine. Meanwhile, the tow truck arrived and loaded her car. They squeezed two kids in the other car and two were riding with the driver. They were on their way to Carl’s shop.

Once there, they unloaded the car and finally got to meet the mystery man, Carl. He had everything arranged. He had a car with gas waiting for the group, and gave them two sets of keys because he wanted to prepare for a lost set on the beach. Then he told them that they didn’t have to come back until they were on their way back home the next Saturday. I couldn’t believe how much he was going out of his way to help.

I spoke to Sherry briefly and she told me about saying the prayer before she left. She told me with certainty that Carl was no coincidence. She knew that they were being looked after. I also knew that that group had a guide on this vacation. They made it to Florida safely and were checked in to their room in time to head out on the town.

On Monday, Carl called me with the diagnosis. He refused prepayment, and said we would settle up when everything was fixed.

The following Saturday, the group headed back through Andalusia to pick up the car. Carl had made special arrangements to meet them. He would not accept payment until the group made it home safely and I had verified his repairs. I commented on how generous he was being and he acted like it was no big deal. He obviously doesn’t know how the rest of the world is now, I thought. He expressed how he was older and was proud to be from a small country town where people trusted one another, where a man’s word should be as good as his bond, and a handshake was better than a contract.

My father had told me stories about how he lived in the country here in Kentucky and people helped out whenever and wherever they could. He also taught me that without my word, what I said would mean nothing.

It got me thinking, maybe the world really hasn’t changed as much as it appears.

Carl never asked me if I was Republican or Democrat, he didn’t ask me if I believed the way he believed, he just wanted to be Carl and help someone out.

I hope that Carl Norris and his shop in Andalusia get recognized for his good deed. I think what he did helps us see that there are still good people out there that want to help others. I know I sure learned from Mr. Norris and his generosity. I hope that I can pass it on, help someone else out, and leave an impression on them, like he has me and my family. There are still happy endings and the almighty dollar does not dictate everything we do.

Thank You Carl, C1 Custom Truck and Auto, and the little town of Andalusia, Ala., for still existing and being proud to be that Good Ol’ Guy and that little shop in that little town, giving all of us hope that America is still great!

God Bless all,

Randy Coulter