Archived Story

Jack Strayer: How to judge a man by the content of his character

Published 9:07am Thursday, August 22, 2013

By Jack Strayer

One early spring Saturday morning when I was living in Alexandria, Virginia I answered a knock at my door and found a 10-year old boy standing there with a bucket filled with car wash supplies.
“Sir, may I wash your car?” he asked politely.  “You drive the Chrysler LeBaron convertible don’t you?”
I told him yes, that it was my car, and yes it needed washing.  “How much?” I asked.
“Ten dollars, Sir,” the young boy answered.  “But I will detail it for you, too!  See, I have a toothbrush for that!”
I told him to meet me in the garage behind my house.  I showed him where the hose was located and moved the dirty convertible into the alley so he could wash it.  An hour later the young boy proudly announced that my car was finished.  I inspected the wash job and told him he did excellent work.  I pulled out my wallet and discovered I only had a $20 bill.
“What is your name?” I asked.
“Ramone,” he answered.
“Ramone, I only have a $20 bill, so you will need to come back next week and wash my car again.  I am paying you in advance,” I explained.
Ramone appeared on my doorstep the following Saturday, wearing a bright yellow slicker and hat in the pouring rain, carrying his big bucket.
“Do you want me to wash your car today, Sir?” Ramone asked.  “You told me to be here”
We both laughed and I sent Ramone home, but he appeared on my doorstep throughout the summer.  I would always pay him $20 for a week in advance.
Ten years later, after not seeing Ramone for nearly a decade, I was standing in line at the neighborhood Seven-11 when a very tall young man in a suit ahead of me in line turned around and asked, “You still driving that LeBaron convertible out there, Sir?”
“Why, yes I am,” I answered.
“Mr. Strayer, I’m Ramone!  That’s my convertible next to yours!  I just bought it and that’s my Mama out there and I am giving her the first ride. She will want to meet you!”
We walked out of the store together and Ramone said, “Mama, this is Mr. Strayer!”
Ramone’s mother began to cry and so did Ramone.
“Mr. Strayer, I am so glad to meet you!  You taught my son the value of a dollar.  You taught my son about work ethics, and you taught him how to trust a white man!  He has a scholarship to James Madison University,” she said through her tears. “Thank you so much!  You changed my boy’s life!  He has a big future!”
“Ramone has changed my life, too,” I said through my tears as we all hugged in the parking lot of the Alexandria Seven-11.
Ramone had taught me how to judge a man by the content of his character.

A native of Niles, Jack Strayer moved back home in 2009 after living and working in Washington DC since 1976.  Strayer has served as a congressional staffer, state legislative press secretary, federal registered lobbyist and Vice President of the National Center for Policy Analysis.  He is a nationally recognized expert on federal health policy reform and led the fight for the enactment of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).


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