Barrels of Oil and Buckets of Faith

My first car was a 1951 Chevy Power Glide, a beastly machine my grandfather dubbed, The Boiler. I bought it for $80 in 1970, the summer I turned nineteen.

It was a far cry from my father’s, sleek ’66 Pontiac LeMans which I occasionally got to drive in high school. That one had some kick to it. I remember gunning the LeMans down Shaw Street in Braintree, the back road that lead to Fore River Shipyard about ten miles south of Boston. By the time I reached the old Quintree Drive-In, the needle was usually pushing eighty.

The Boiler was another matter. It was the drab color of a battleship and as slow-moving. Top-speed was forty.  Beyond that, the old rattletrap vibrated uncontrollably; the steering wheel may as well have been a jack hammer.

There were lots of things going on under the hood, too, like misfiring spark plugs and screeching fan belts.  And… it leaked oil.

I remember a gas station attendant once telling me to check the oil from time to time. He had just checked under the hood (they used to do that in 1970 when gasoline cost thirty-five cents a gallon) and was showing me the dipstick where there was a slight trace of oil way south of the “low” line.

“Hey, buddy,” he said, snidely, “to keep this rig running you’re gonna need barrels of oil and buckets of faith. Keep checking on both.”

In 1970, faith was easy. It was alone-time talks with God at St. Clare’s Church just before Sunday Mass or thumb rides home with perfect strangers whenever The Boiler broke down. Faith was a feeling that everything would work out, that there weren’t any roadblocks that could turn me back. Faith was being nineteen-years-old.

And then Injustice ran a red light. In time, Hardship, too, took to the road, broad siding me at will. In my rearview mirror, Doubt was a tailgater I could not shake.

Too often, I felt alone when life seemed to turn on me, when God appeared to flee the scenes of my accidents. Those were the times I needed to check under the hood. Those were the times when faith was a bone-dry dipstick.

And then kids with Down syndrome entered my life. There was the old-time radio show I put together for nursing home patients. A few dozen college students with learning disabilities depended upon me to show them ways to develop study skills. I learned how to hike with teens who were blind. A guy in a homeless shelter taught me how to fix wheels on grocery carts.

I’ve been a social worker for thirty years. Today, faith is a woman with a hunched back and lung disease who tells me reading scripture makes her stand tall. It’s the hospice chaplain, with stuffed-animal owls and elephants, who brings smiles to the faces of people who are dying. It’s a life review discussion with the old trombonist whose dilapidated house is filled with sheet music and loose pages from a weather-beaten bible.

Buckets of faith. They’re out there – many times in unlikely places.

My ’51 Chevy is long-gone and so, too, is the dipstick. The hybrid I drive  has a dashboard panel that flashes the percentage of remaining oil  in the crankcase. What it doesn’t measure, however, is my flow of faith. That’s when I have to get under another kind of  hood. That’s where faith checks come in.

Faith – it’s what keeps me running.


About Rich Kenney

Rich Kenney is an Assistant Professor and Director of the Social Work Program at Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Faith and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Barrels of Oil and Buckets of Faith

  1. Lisa says:

    I like that picture–barrels of oil (Holy Spirit) and buckets of faith. I’m definitely in need of both of those every day, but especially in these days. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Rich Kenney says:

    Thanks, Lisa. I miss that old Chevy…

  3. Diane Pena says:

    Reading your blog made me smile, warmly. My first car was a ’53 Chevy but my second was my car to be known by…..a 56chevy black convertible with duels. I didn’t know much about faith in those days but I could change my oil and rotate my tires. Faith came long after that wonderful car.
    (My girlfriend and I once outran a tornado in Kansa with it)

  4. Brad Gerver says:

    I suppose faith is all we have. But, faith in what? That is the burning question.

  5. Indeed, faith is what keeps us running! 🙂

  6. Rich,
    This was very clever! I like “Buckets of faith. There are out there sometimes in unlikely places.” Yes!! When I read that I am reminded of how we are encouraged to meet with one another:
    “not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:25
    You have the sweet children you work with, Faith, and the Chaplain and now we have a meeting place on the web! Your post encouraged me! Thank you

    • Rich Kenney says:

      Arcelia, thanks for your kind words. Your quote on “encouraging one another” is an important one.
      And a sincere thanks to all the people who take time to make their comments.

  7. Alexandra Jump says:

    I just love love love buckets of faith and all the places you have found it. Thank you for finding my writing, come back often and I will surely do the same 🙂

  8. Thank you for sharing. Your faith is very inspiring and your story touched my heart!

  9. Wendy Taylor says:

    Reblogged this on Wendy's Blog and commented:
    Truly inspiring Richard

  10. Stephen says:

    Wonderfully written, “Doubt was tailgater I couldn’t shake” is a fabulous line. Keep up the God work.

  11. literary lew says:

    Thanks for checking my blog out. And, I read your posting re “Barrells of Oil…” You write very well. Hope you keep it up.

  12. villagepeasant says:

    Inspiring story. Very nicely done.
    True enough, our troubles may give us moments of doubt. But those without faith have their troubles too. Faith gives us courage to carry on and rise above them.
    You have great memories about your experiences with cars. I have a few too ( I guess most of us do), some of which are cited in my poem “Man in Motion”. The poem has a faith factor as well. You may want to read it.
    Thank you for liking “Blaming God…”

  13. ideagirlconsulting says:

    thanks for sharing 🙂

  14. susiebell123 says:

    Hi Rich, I loved this post! How wonderful! We have a stock, ’54 Chevy Bel Air Convertible sitting quietly in our garage, waiting for the summer heat to kick us into car show season! And, many times, I believe it was our faith (and perhaps unscrewing the air filter just a little) that got us up an over some major hills! My husband, who is so strong in his faith, also loves his classic car and it has brought us a lot of good memories. Now that he is so ill, he actually is talking about selling the car so that I won’t have to worry about it later, and it will take buckets of faith to make that decision.

    • Rich Kenney says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I will keep your husband in my prayers and hope he gets well (and doesn’t have to sell the car). And you’re probably right about unscrewing the air filter a bit. Faith gets us through the tough times…

  15. susansplace says:

    Hi Rich, I’ve been so looking forward to your next post! Hope you’re doing well!

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