More Than Painting

January 20, 2010
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The paint was chipped, the windows were cracked, and the rusted support beams looked as though they would collapse with the next gust of wind. The entire house smelled like a forgotten litter box. This is not the first impression you want to have of a place where you know you will be spending the next six hours performing physical labor. After a few moments of staring at the task before me, I let out a sigh and began painting. The smell of the paint mixed with the already potent smell of forgotten litter box was atrocious. “Why?” I thought to myself. Saturdays are meant for relaxing with friends, not for performing arduous tasks for lazy people who will not do it themselves. As I continued grumbling to myself, I noticed a peculiar man helping with the labor. This man was very small in stature as well as being totally bald. Both his shirt and blue jeans had multiple rips and tears, and on top if that he wore a pair of coke-bottle frame glasses. I could not remember seeing this man earlier. He must have been a member of one of the other volunteer organizations that that was assisting us in providing our services. Hours later, I saw the man again. He was working harder and more diligent than any other member of our group. Sweat dripped from his brow every time he tilted his head to look down. I was impressed by his effort, and I began to pick up the pace myself. The strange man worked without a break until the final touch-ups were applied. As my group and I relaxed in the shade, I pointed out this man to them and they had no idea who he was as well. We came to the conclusion that he was another member of the hundreds of volunteers working on projects in the Maryvale neighborhood. Later, we came back to the house we painted to deliver a Thanksgiving turkey. Our whole group gathered at the front door and rang the doorbell. When the rickety door creaked open to reveal the home owner, I was dumbfounded. I could hardly utter the words, “Happy Thanksgiving,” to the man I saw. It was the same peculiar man who had worked his hands to the bone all day with me.

“Thank you children. Thank you so much,” said the small man. I was truly humbled when we left the house that day. I assumed the owner was just some person receiving a “freebie”. I did not know that he had lost his job and was trying to get back on his own feet. I gained a valuable life lesson that cannot and will not ever be forgotten. I learned that judging others based on looks is a faulty trait in human beings. I will never make that detrimental mistake again thanks to this one seemingly insignificant individual.

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