A Laugh and a Smile - 01/20/2017
Afternoon Thoughts: I have been considering writing this reflection for a few years now, basically since November of 2014. I often would think about it but it just never seemed like the right time. Well, this afternoon I am sitting at my desk with most of my work done at least for today, but I am not feeling too energized or joyful. So, I would like to try and make my day a little better by sharing a few thoughts with you about two men who over the past few years have helped me see life a little differently.
The two men I would like to write about are named Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Probably better known to many as Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers from the NPR radio show Car Talk. Tom and Ray are the two most genuine I have ever listen to on the radio and they are also the funniest! Now I don’t claim to be a long-time listener. In fact, it was probably only sometime during 2011 that I knew they and their radio show even existed. My brother-in-law is a long-time listener and I probably heard him talk about the show from time to time but it never really clicked. Up until recently I was not an NPR listener.
However back in 2011 my ministry changed and I found myself on the road a lot. My car at the time had Sirius/XM radio and on long drives when I grew tired of music I began to search around for some alternative stations. I remembered my sister talking about NPR and so I found that station. NPR has a lot of talk shows and much to my surprise I began to enjoy tuning in.
Then one afternoon I was on a rather long trip that would not end until late in the evening and so around three pm, having been listening to music all day, I decided to change the station to NPR to see what was on. NPR was just beginning a three-hour segment of the show Car Talk. Now normally Car Talk is on at 10:00 am Saturday mornings. What I was listening to was what they called The Best of Car Talk. In other words, these were shows from the past being replayed. Well even though I have very little mechanical ability I grew up around friends who loved cars so I decided to listen.
By the end of the three hours I was hooked. No by the middle of the first hour I was hooked!
Now it wasn’t because they gave me profound insight into repairing cars to the point that I would now try it myself. I still have no mechanical ability and as one of my nephews once reminded me, I don’t even have any tools! What the show offer me was three hours of continues laughter and genuine joy. Tom and Ray had a wonderful chemistry. They could tell you about cars but they would also tell you about life. They laughed at and with their callers. They laughed at and with themselves. They never berated, belittled or disrespected anyone, except in innocent fun. They were honest, informative and downright entertaining. They had the gift of joy and believe me it was infectious.
Whether I was on a long drive, sitting in traffic or listening at home on my computer or radio by the end of the program I had a smile on my face and the day was just a little better and brighter. When I wasn’t driving around I began to make sure that I caught their new shows each week often by going to their website. It was just a way to make life a little more hopeful and joyful. It became a way to get beyond the darkness that life can often throw at us.
Sadly, on November 3, 2014 Tom Magliozzi died due to complications from Alzheimer's disease. Tom and Ray had stopped doing their show in 2012 and my guess is that it was because of Tom’s Alzheimer’s. However, I could always get them for three hours in the afternoon Monday to Friday on Sirius/XM or on the Car Talk or NPR websites or at 10:00 am on Saturday on the local NPR station.
Any day I was down, struggling, depressed, mad at the world, sad or just feeling alone I could find an episode or two of Car Talk and the sun would come out, a smile would come to my face and life would be a little better! The problems didn’t seem so big and yes, God was present. It is funny how humor, laughter and a smile can truly make God seem so very near.
Now I am sure that Tom and Ray were not thinking about God as they presented their show each week, but as I said in the beginning they were genuine people, who looked at life in a positive way, a respectful way and a lifegiving way. Because they lived life this way God came to life in their banter, their good advice, their concern for others and their infectious laughs!
Listening to them often made me think of the disciples and what they might have encountered in Jesus that kept them going. Certainly, it was his teaching and the miracles, but I would bet it was also his truthfulness, his genuineness and perhaps his laughter.
Tom and Ray were and are intelligent men. They both graduated from MIT and Tom even had an MBA and a PHD. However, for me it was their humanness that made all the difference. There was no “me, me, me or I, I, I.” There was no hate filled language or disrespectful talk. They genuinely wanted to know about their callers. Not just the problems they were having with their car or the questions they were asking. They wanted to know about the person on the other end of the line. Like any call-in show there were some “odd ducks” but that didn’t matter. Tom and Ray were there for them, with a little advice and a lot of laughs!
I wish I had found Tom, Ray and Car Talk a lot sooner. I might have avoided many dark days in my life. I might have learned to laugh a little more and smile with more regularity. I might have recognized the gift of God’s presence a little more in my life and in the world around me. I am indebted to Tom and Ray. I owe them big time! I am sad Tom is no longer with us but I am sure his laughter can be heard all over heaven. Both Tom and Ray were and are from Cambridge, Massachusetts, (our fair city as Tom would always say), They were and still are lights in an often dark and negative world. For me their simple laughter often changes, in a positive way, the course of many struggling days.
Perhaps, I will take my own advice this afternoon or evening and search the NPR website for another Car Talk show. I will put my feet up and have a good laugh, learn a little about cars and put a smile on my face.
Thanks for stopping by the website and letting me share this my reflection with us. And thanks to Tom and Ray…
PS Car Talk is still on many local NPR stations at 10:00 am on Saturday and as I mentioned above you can find podcasts on the NPR website. Why not give it a listen?
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Fr. Paul R. Fagan, C.P. "Preacher on the Run"
Just a few thoughts to help you on your journey through life...let me know from time to time what you think...