Saturday, August 2, 2014
"Why the neighbor's garage and not your own?", you ask. "Don't you have enough to do around your own house?", you ask.
Well.... I do have plenty to do here, but.
When I look out into my back yard, the neighbor's garage serves as a backdrop for the yard. Not that the yard is anything to look at right now, but I do hope it will be pleasing to the eye sometime in the next year.
As I looked out and planned, my eye would always get caught by the peeling paint on the neighbor's garage. I didn't like it. Now, they keep their house in good shape, but the garage is pretty rough. I think that because they don't have to look at it, they didn't think to keep it up.
The back of their garage isn't that big, so I found myself tempted to just paint it myself, so I wouldn't have to see the peeling paint any longer. I didn't think it would take that long - 4-5 hours tops.
So, one day I popped on over there and asked them if they'd mind if I painted it. They were a little taken aback, but readily agreed to let me do the work. (they quickly offered to buy the paint.)
I was talking to their neighbor to the south, whose backyard is also next to mine, and mentioned she might see me out there. "Oh, my", she said. "Do you suppose you might be able to paint my side of their garage, too? It looks even worse than the back." Well, Anita's been nothing but nice to me since we moved in. She's getting a little older, and can't paint the garage herself, and she was right - her side of their garage looked awful. So, I agreed.
Which changed the job from a 4-ish hour job to a 12-15 hour chore.
It took several days to get the work done. It took a LOT of scraping, then I had to prime and reglaze the window before I could paint.
As I scraped, I must admit I was asking myself what the heck I was doing out there. It's one thing to indulge my own self-interest by painting the side I have to look at, it's another to paint a side I can barely see. It was hot. I was sweaty. I mulled it over. And I decided it was high time I'd reached out and done something nice for someone just because I could. I've been mostly just taking care of me for some time. I think I said yes because I was overdue for some good church.
Now, I'm not much on formal religion these days - when asked, I claim to be a member of the Church of Random Kindness and Senseless Beauty. My church isn't much on doctrine, but it does ask, when the opportunity presents itself, that you reach out in kindness to others. The garage painting gig was a perfect opportunity to reach out.
As I reached this conclusion, Anita saw me out there working. She came out with her ladder and a pitcher of ice water and a glass of ice. (and refilled it after the ice melted.) She was so grateful - she's worked hard to make her small back yard inviting, and the eyesore next door was hard to camouflage.
It's not often I get instant feedback that I've done the right thing, but there it was. Suddenly, I didn't mind the heat and the sweat. As Anthony De Mello wrote - I gave myself the pleasure of pleasing others. and it felt good.
I was happy. Anita is happy. and, as a bonus, the garage's owners are happy.
Not bad payback for a few hours work.