Almost 43 years ago, I pulled up in front of a two-story house in Houston’s most notoriously funky neighborhood. The house, I found out later, was where Clark Gable had briefly resided. Howard Hughes had lived on Hawthorne, the next street over, about the same time.
But I wasn’t looking for celebrities. I was looking for a job, and the lady at the employment agency told me there was one inside that house. It had something to do with writing about trucks and trailers.
My dad and uncle were in construction. Both drove pickups. My dad even owned an old Lufkin platform trailer. So it wasn’t like I didn’t know anything about trucks and trailers. I could do this job at least until a better one came along.
Then something really weird happened. As I was about to get out of the car, I heard the words “This is what I have for you.”
This is what I have for you? Where did those words come from? What does that mean? Forty-two years have gone by since then, and I’m still trying to figure it out. Here’s my best shot:
First and most obvious, it meant a job. But it sure wasn’t one that I had planned on. Until Trailer/Body Builders came along, I barely knew that this form of journalism even existed.
Guys I knew landed jobs at large corporations, not at small, family-owned publishing businesses. Back then, getting a job at a big company meant you were set for life. But some of these big companies collapsed with my friends inside—some in the oil bust of the 80s, others in the aftermath of the dot.com bubble, and throughout this past decade. But mine didn’t. I was able to keep writing about companies like yours even in the tough times. And as you know, the truck and trailer business can have some pretty tough times.
Second, “this is what I have for you” meant parenthood. All three of our boys were born, grew up, and got married while I worked at Trailer/Body Builders. During my job interview, I had to agree to travel approximately 20% of the time. My wife points out that the kids only went to the emergency room when I was out of town. And, yes, our third son was born when I was trying to do a story on a dump body manufacturer in West Virginia. But even with the travel, this job still provided enough time for me to coach the boys’ soccer teams, go on campouts, and in general enjoy the privileges that come with being a dad.
Third, “this is what I have for you” meant protection. I have logged enough air miles to fly from earth to the moon almost six times. I have driven countless miles in rental cars through all kinds of road conditions, and I have lived approximately eight years in motel rooms.
Some of the trips were far from routine. One trip led me to Los Angeles just in time for the Rodney King riots. “Be careful,” the shuttle van driver warned as he drove to the rental car counter. “They are pulling people out of cars.” Getting home was a challenge, too. LAX was closed, the receptionist told me after my interview was over, because rioters were shooting at airplanes.
On a flight to an interview in North Carolina, the pilot announced that strong storms had closed every airport in the area. If an airport did not reopen in the next five minutes, he told us, we would run out of fuel.
Scary? Sometimes, but I always made it home unscathed. It meant protection.
Fourth, “this is what I have for you” meant a life filled with interesting people. Over the course of my career, almost 2,000 of you opened your companies to me, providing the material for the stories that you read each month in Trailer/Body Builders.
I have gotten to know countless others of you by sharing meals and conversations year after year at conventions and trade shows. When our house flooded a few years ago, friends from NTEA showed up to help us pull out ruined flooring, sheetrock and insulation. Even now I reflect on the people this job has brought into my life and think, “Wow. Look who I get to be friends with.”
And now it’s over. The fastest 42 years I have ever lived. Heartfelt thanks for making them interesting, fun, and purposeful. Let’s stay in touch. I got a new email address for you to use: [email protected]
I finally figured out whose voice that was, and I’m sure you have, too, by now. It’s not like I deserved any of what God had for me. I hadn’t given God much thought for years before or even a few years after hearing those words. He had to tell me what he had for me because I wasn’t going to figure it out on my own.
What he had for me has been far more than I ever expected. Thank you for being part of it. And may you, too, be filled with wonder as God fully reveals what he has for you. ♦