I have declared this The Summer of Joy, even though I have no legal authority to do so. I am merely comparing this summer to the last one. We are smiling again. We are taking vacations, and we are going to church, ball games, and concerts. Optimism is in full bloom.
So if you came here to read about UFOs, virus variants, insurrections, infrastructure, indictments, filibusters or ghostbusters, you will have to look elsewhere. You will not find those words in my column. Not this week, anyway. I have an uplifting story to share with you.
It begins with a man named Zack Peters. He’s a real estate guy in the Chattanooga area. His “Papaw” Joe DiPrima owned a wholesale tire company. Joe was a giver. He enjoyed sharing his good fortune. He loved his grandchildren, and he made sure each of them got a nice car when they graduated from high school.
Joe died earlier this year. His grandson Zack took it hard. At the time of Joe’s death, Zack was still driving the 2001 Toyota Tundra that Joe had given him 20 years ago. The one with 300,000 miles on it. Joe would even kid him about it. “Are you ever gonna trade in that truck?” he would ask. “No way,” Zack would say. “It’s special to me.”
A few weeks after his grandfather’s death, Zack realized something. “I only kept it because it was my connection to him,” he said. “It was something we could talk about.”
He soon bought himself a new truck. Now, what would he do with the old one? How could he continue the circle of love his grandfather had started?
“I couldn’t just cash it in,” he said. “That truck means something. It has a purpose. It served me well for 20 years, and it’s in great shape. I would feel confident driving it to California. I wanted it to mean as much to someone else as it did to me.”
It was graduation season. He called Rob Mountjoy, a teacher friend in Ringgold, Georgia. “I need a favor,” he said. “Can you find me a good kid who needs reliable transportation? I will give them this truck.”
His friend Rob made one phone call, and then told Zack to meet him at the high school baseball field. “And bring your truck, tag, title and keys,” Rob said.
Zack arrived at the field, and from a distance, his friend pointed out a tall young man helping 8-year-olds learn the game of baseball. The Ringgold baseball team was hosting a youth camp, and 18-year-old Kenyon Ransom was offering tips on pitching, hitting and fielding. Kenyon excelled in every category, earning Best of Preps honors and attracting college scholarship offers.
“That’s your man,” Zack was told. Zack was introduced to Kenyon’s coach, Drew Walker. “Kenyon is a great student, humble, kind, and hopes to play baseball at Motlow State College in Tennessee,” the coach said. “His parents take him everywhere. He has a great work ethic. He’s the first to arrive, the last to leave, and is humble to a fault.”
Zack said, “OK. Let’s do this.”
The coach ran out on to the field, and tapped Kenyon on the shoulder. “Come out to the parking lot. I have somebody I want you to meet.”
The introductions were made, and Zack tried to make some small talk, but it wasn’t easy. “Kenyon, I don’t know you, but…” and he couldn’t continue. His emotions were getting the best of him.
Kenyon takes over the story from here. “This man walks me out to his truck, and starts telling me about his grandfather. He handed me the keys, and with tears in his eyes, he said this truck is for you.”
Let’s pause for a moment. A total stranger just hands over a clean, well-maintained vehicle, with no questions asked, and no strings attached? Not in today’s world, right?
“At first, I thought he was playing around,” Kenyon said. “All I had was a learner’s permit, I didn’t even have a driver’s license. I knew I couldn’t drive it home, not legally.”
He knew it was for real when he arrived home, and the Toyota Tundra was in his driveway. Now, it belongs to him.
Kenyon’s parents, Monica and Nikita Ransom are beaming. Monica told me, “We are super proud of the young man Kenyon has become. This proves there are still good people among us, and I know Kenyon will also pay it forward when he is able to do so.”
“That truck is a gift from God,” Kenyon said. “I wake up grateful every day.”
Speaking through tears, Zack Peters said, “My grandfather would be proud. Our truck is still a blessing. It is exactly where it is supposed to be.”