And I thought I was just walking into a mechanic’s garage.
I was a high school junior with a packet of information about ads I was selling for the Dobyns-Bennett Maroon and Gray yearbook when I walked into Bill’s Automotive. It was shortly after that I realized I much preferred writing for the yearbook rather than trying to get local business owners to buy an ad in our yearbook. That was also the day I realized that all people work to keep their business afloat, but only some use their business for good works and Bill Cox is certainly one of those people.
I remember sitting down with Bill to go over what the ad might look like and how much it would cost. I thought we were there to talk strictly about ads but, as I have learned after years of taking my car to Bill, there is no such thing as a conversation about just your car. (He once told me he charges less to his customers who listen to his stories and jokes. I completely believe him.)
He told me he lived a very different life before. He went from a man who was lost and turning to the world’s escapes to fill a void that was only filled once he came to know Jesus Christ — and there I sat with my little packet in hand just trying to sell an ad.
He agreed to the ad with the condition that I design it and include a Bible verse and a cross somewhere on it.
I left thinking my business at Bill’s Automotive was done.
Here I am 13 years later and my car has seen the inside of his garage more times than I could count. In fact, there isn’t a car owned by anyone in my family that he hasn’t worked on. We don’t go to Bill for the stories (though he certainly serves us plenty of entertainment. Just ask him about the tamale story from when he lived in California.) We don’t go there just because he offers honest, timely and impeccable service either. But we go there because he is good to everyone he meets and that goes well beyond my family.
The last time I coasted into his parking lot, I saw one of his crew members funneling gas into a car just barely past his place on the side of the road. I couldn’t tell you how many front office workers he had who had no experience as a receptionist, much less at a mechanic’s garage, and was hired because she was a single mother who really needed a job. And though the sign posted in his office calls for payment when you pick up your car, it’s not a surprise to see a lesser price on your bill should he know your circumstances.
Good works certainly say a lot about a person, but what says the most about Bill is what he doesn’t say at all.
In the front lobby of his office, the waiting area is filled with the sounds of the Bible story of David on repeat. Meanwhile a large whiteboard sits there waiting for the next name to be added to the prayer list. The list is always updated and typically filled to the brim with names of people in need and the occasional pet my niece has snuck on there a time or two.
But there has been many times his words were what reminded me of the bigger picture.
I had a hard week of juggling stories and tackling life’s curve balls when it seemed my car’s inability to start was what was about to send me over the edge of insanity a few months ago. I barely made it to Bill’s garage. He worked on it the next morning and I had my car the following afternoon (which, as we all know, is a fantastic thing).
I thanked him for working on it so quickly and for answering my phone call to his cell number the day before. When I thanked him for getting my car back up and running he said he didn’t do it. He said, “I didn’t get you here before your car left you on the side of the road. The Lord did that. He made sure you got here.”
I sat in my newly fixed car and thought about how often we forget about God when we’re trying to tread water and handle our troubles on our own. But He’s there. And He was there in a reminder from Bill that day.
Though Bill could be seen as a saint in a jumpsuit, an angel in motor oil or a disciple making motors crank, he insists that he is just a vessel and a man who learned that life is about so much more than earning money and getting what you want in life. It’s about serving God and helping others.
He might refuse to believe he’s a hero, but this is the one time I’d tell him he’s wrong (he’s been right about my problem child of a Jeep enough times for me to say it’s rare that he’s wrong.) That’s just one of the reasons Bill Cox is a hero. He’s been through many of life’s struggles that he’d gladly tell you about, but it’s never really about him. But it’s always about Him.
He’s kept me on the road many times, but he has also helped my mom, who lost her husband a few years ago. He’s helped my sister find a car that would get her and her two kids where they needed to go safely. He’s offered to let my brother-in -aw work on his Bronco in the garage on an upcoming weekend.
He’s a friend of our family for life (and will probably always be on my mom’s homemade soap and Christmas fudge list), but he has been so much more to so many people in the community.
That was evident the day a high school student walked into his shop not knowing she’d hear a full-on testimony and keep hearing and seeing it for years to come. He’d never tell you what all he has done for others. But one thing’s for sure — he’d absolutely tell you all about Jesus Christ and sometimes that’s without saying anything at all.