My Kind Mechanic, Distributism, and the ASP

An American Solidarity Party Member Perspective, by Valerie Niemeyer

When was the last time your heart was profoundly blessed by your auto mechanic? For me, it was just two hours ago, and the encounter reminded me of why I’m a member of the American Solidarity Party. As a party that is committed to a consistent reverence for human life, we embrace a distributist approach to the economy that fosters the well-being of persons, families, and communities through widespread ownership and a more truly free market.

I am not well-educated about economies and markets, but common sense and my heart tell me that I want to live in a country that makes family businesses (including family farms) a viable option for as many people as possible, which was reinforced by my experience with my kind mechanic earlier today.

I was on my way home from picking up a grocery delivery from my parents’ driveway (my house wasn’t in the delivery zone), when my decrepit 2001 Toyota Sienna lost momentum and began emitting a low rumbling, then a rasping sound. Clenching both my jaw and the steering wheel, I worried about how soon I could find a safe place to pull over and explained to my kiddos (who sensed adventure) that I thought I may have a punctured tire. Once tucked safely off the road, with tires intact and palms pressed to the rough, cool road, I beheld the fallen exhaust pipe extending forward from the muffler—the source of the rasping sound. Bummer.

“Call Excellence and see if they do exhaust stuff like this; if so, we’ll have it towed there,” advised my husband. Thank God for cell phones. I dialed the number and Tom answered. I told him about the dragging pipe and asked if it was something they could help with.

“Sure. Which way is it hanging—towards the back of the car, or towards the front?”

“Towards the front,” I replied.

“Ah—that’s too bad. Where are you at?” I wasn’t too far from his shop—less than ten minutes.

He said, “Why don’t I just come see if I can tie it up so you can drive it here and not have to wait for a tow truck. Can you leave it with me?”

I responded, “Let me call Gramps and see if he can meet us there and take us home. I’ll call you right back.”

Gramps, my husband’s dad, was happy to help. When I called the shop back, it was Tom’s wife who answered. She passed the phone to him for my update: “Yep, I can leave it with you. But I can call a tow truck—it’s not a problem, insurance will cover it.”

“No, don’t do that. It’s no problem. Where exactly are you?”

I knew he wouldn’t charge me for his trouble. He’d gone above and beyond for us before, and his invoices were always a pleasant surprise. We have total trust in his integrity and humbling admiration for his generosity.

Within half an hour, I was greeting his wife, Renee (whom I always look forward to encountering), at the reception desk. She has an air of motherly wisdom and a warm, hard-working humility that always comes through in our conversations.

I remembered noticing the encouraging quote from Scripture hanging above her desk the first time I entered the shop. I also remembered the time her husband kindly worked us in before we left town so we could be sure our old family van was road-trip safe. As I had expressed my gratitude, she had smiled and laughed a bit, and proceeded to compare her husband to the Statue of Liberty, always welcoming anyone, any time, with a desire to improve their automotive lot in life. His automotive lot frequently reflects that posture, with cars in every nook and cranny awaiting his devoted care.

One notes that this kind of care for his customers does not make for an easy, 9-to-5, workaday life.  Renee seems grateful and fulfilled—and tired. They’ve been at this for twenty-seven years, and last I heard, they were hoping a son would take over the business at some point. We hope so, too. Their family has managed to beautify our life and enrich our humanity because they have truly cared about our family as they have worked to help us maintain (or lay to rest) the vehicles that have carried us to and fro in this blessed adventure of life.

We had a similar experience with our previous mechanic, Steve, whose shop was just down the street from Tom’s, and whose retirement after years of faithful service to his community was both a well-earned reward for him and a heartbreaker for those whose lives he had long blessed with quality, friendly automotive service. When businesses are rooted more in human relationships and service to the community than in efficiency and profits, humanity all around is blessed and enriched.

President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “We must strive to secure a broader economic opportunity for all men, so that each shall have a better chance to show the stuff of which he is made.”

My dad and both of his parents worked hard for large American manufacturing corporations, and I perceived (rightly, I hope) that they had a sense of ownership and pride in their work and in their companies’ business enterprises. They also enjoyed good benefits and comfortable retirement. I’m thankful that Tom and Renee enjoy an even greater sense of ownership and pride in their family business, and I want them, and others like them, to also have access to good benefits and a comfortable retirement as a result of their hard work for our community.

The American Solidarity Party holds that economic enterprises and policies should be ordered to the true well-being of people, families, and communities, and that “models of economic behavior that undermine human dignity with greed and naked self-interest” are to be rejected. We will support folks like my kind, industrious mechanic by advocating, as our platform states, for “an economic system which focuses on creating a society of widespread ownership (sometimes referred to as ‘distributism’) rather than having the effect of degrading the human person as a cog in the machine.”

There are many who will say that such high ideals are not realistic and that pursuing them comes at too great a cost. There are also many mechanics who would never bother to do what Tom did for me today. But I say that caring is worth the sacrifices it inevitably entails, both personally and politically.

Valerie Niemeyer is married to Joe, the father of her six kiddos (ages two to fourteen), who are homeschooled so that “out of the box” educational opportunities could be pursued with and for them. It’s hard, messy, and humbling, but also beautiful and glorious, because of God’s love, mercy, and faithfulness. Large manufacturing companies, as well as family farms and family-owned businesses, have sustained and blessed her family for generations through the hard work of her grandparents, parents, and now her husband. Her greatest teachers and mentors (other than God and her parents) have been the poor of Latin America, whom she has been honored to share life with through various transformative experiences beginning in high school, thanks to the generosity and courage of her parents. After graduating from Creighton University with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish with certification in Secondary Education, she chose to serve the local immigrant and refugee population in nonprofit and community health settings (while pursuing a master’s degree in Theology) prior to staying at home full-time with her children. As an orthodox Roman Catholic who appreciates the good and laments the bad in both major American political parties, she is grateful to have found a political “home” where a consistent, robust reverence for human life and the common good is promoted.

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