Cars & Coffee

I attended Cars & Coffee with my youngest son Chris this past Saturday. This is an informal gathering of car enthusiasts in the parking lot of a local shopping center. I would guess more than 200 cars are there on a typical first Saturday of each month. My son drives a late model Honda Civic Sport EX. He has blacked out his emblems and de-badged the rest of the car, added a front splitter and some carbon fiber trim details, and several decals on the windows (most in Japanese.) He would like to do a lot more, but money and some parental resistance have kept things in check for now.

At the car gathering, we focused our attention on the Honda, Subaru and Ford Focus groups. People tend to park their cars together in like groups (some are even in car clubs together), and you can see lots of customizations to the same model car in one place. The creativity is incredible even when the execution could use some polishing. But one thing kept standing out to me. The things that become popular get repeated by others until almost everyone has that element on their car.

Custom parts manufacturer stickers centered on the rear window, oversized and rectangular aftermarket rear view mirrors, wide-body kits, airflow pieces over the side windows, and oddly, the hanging handles from Japanese subway cars as hand holds for the passenger—all are found on most of the Hondas. As I let my son explain to me why these things were important, there was always an origin story, however, that origin had little or nothing to do with anyone in that parking lot on that day. They just think it looks cool.

This all made me think. How much of what I accept, hold to be true, am attracted to, or think is “cool” is rooted in an origin story I have nothing in common with? How much of the details I have attached to my life are just bits and pieces I have tacked on without really understanding or caring why?

I predict that when the trends change, those cars will change too. The things that are cool now will fall away to be replaced by new shiny things that have no more depth of meaning than the ones they replace. The commitment the car owners have is not to the things they hang on their cars, but to being part of the club. What they seek is it is acceptance, not authenticity.

Conducting myself in a way that enables me to move through civil society unhindered and without causing undue offense is to be applauded. In that way, seeking acceptance is not wrong. However, when I adjust my beliefs and ideals to match the current trends, I risk adding things without understanding them and throwing away things that should be kept.

If I want to live an authentic life, I need to explore and understand the basis for what I believe and how I behave. Mimicking others may gain me surface acceptance, but it is a shallow and short-lived phenomenon. Authenticity requires a commitment to the basis of belief and action. It requires me to know who I want to be and what I want to be true about my life before I select the ornaments that communicate these things to others.

Probably more than any other time, this season comes with enormous expectations for everything to “look” and “feel” right. If we are not careful, we will achieve a Facebook (or Insta) image without any real substance. I would rather have a life marked by authenticity and transparency than attract attention by hanging the latest fad on my life. This season is also a time when we look forward to a celebration of the arrival of the true King and our Savior. His birth didn’t look or feel like a king’s birth, but he was the real thing.

I want to be a person who truly values and cares about other people. I want to be honest with myself and others. I guess that’s why I like the older cars that have been restored to their original look. They are just being what they were meant to be, not trying to be something else. I want to participate in a community where our ornaments are understood to be for our and others’ enjoyment, not as a means to define ourselves. Being authentic is the way to truly honor this season and the people we care about, and it is The Kimray Way.