Last week, a friend at church mentioned the possibility of a group of us responding to a need of one of his friends. One of his former classmates from high school had fallen on tough times. Failing health had created a multitude of difficulties. In addition, the friend was confined to a wheel chair and his inability to physically and financially address structural issues in his home were additional stress factors.
A couple of days ago, the friend from church sent me a text asking that I give him a call if I wanted to help. Of course I wanted to help. I previously verbalized that I would. The workday was scheduled for Saturday. Before I contacted him, I got a message that my granddaughter was playing in a volleyball tournament in Cedar Park on Saturday. In addition, my son and at least one of his boys were also going to be there. It was their expectation that the General and I be there as well.
Wouldn’t you know it? There is always more to do than you can possibly get done and time is a commodity that seems in short supply. What to do? What could I do? Obviously, I made the only ethical choice that I could make. I had verbalized a commitment to help with the work project. Consequently, I felt obligated to keep the earlier commitment.
As it turned out, the friend orchestrating the work project also invited one of his other classmates to assist as well. The man turned out to be highly skilled in carpentry. I was amazed at his knowledge. I asked: “How did you learn to do all of this?” He said, “I grew up with this stuff. My father was a builder and I worked at his side. In addition, my brother is the guy we refer to as the finish carpenter. He is very skilled”.
He didn’t tell me that he had built his own home. I learned that from my friend. Okay, so I’m a little envious. I think it would be great to have that kind of skill set. It may not be rocket science, but it is better than that and way out of my league. In fact, most things are beyond my grasp. Maybe in the midst of retirement I can learn how to do something. The General would probably say that anything would be an improvement. She is ever so right.
Of course I’d prefer to call an electrician and avoid electric shock therapy that potentially could be deadly if I were left to my own discretion. The same is true for plumbing. I have the unique skill set to make a small water leak turn into a gusher before I’m done. Been there/done that is all I can say. Actually that’s not really true. I also can say: “You live and you learn”. Consequently, I’m not gravitating toward electricity or water. Someone who knows what they’re doing in both those areas is worth every penny it cost to hire a professional.
Professionally, the classmate worked in law enforcement. He has been retired for the past seven years. He turned out to be very personable and his skill set also was top-notch. He chose to settle for nothing less than perfection. I was assigned to help him (tote-and-fetch-guy) and he thoughtfully explained what he was doing during the process. It turned out to be a fun day and I learned some things.
The man whose home was being worked on was also very gracious and appreciative. I enjoyed watching the interaction between the three previous classmates. The commaradarie and life experiences they’ve shared speak volumes about their friendship. All three were in the Johnson City High School graduating class of 1960. Interestingly, I know one other guy that was in that same high school graduating class.
I am amazed by the number of people who grew up in small towns around Austin and stayed there for the entirety of their lives. On the other hand, who could blame them? Hills, water, trees and friendly folks define the area. Why would you want to go anywhere else? I grew up in Odessa. Now you know why I think Henly is the edge of Heaven. The contrast is amazing. Odessa = Friendly People/Henly=Hills, Water, Trees and Friendly People.
I didn’t ask what year the three classmates actually met and became friends, but I made the assumption they probably went through most if not all twelve grades together. The guy I was helping said he was born in the Blanco Court House. Of course, at one time the previous courthouse had served as a hospital. Both he and the homeowner said that when they started to school they didn’t speak English. German is the only language they had ever known.
I was fascinated by that reality. I knew there was a large German community in the Johnson City/Fredericksburg area, but it never occurred to me that families spoke only German. I didn’t ask if either of them still speak German, but I hope they do. It would be sad to let that part of one’s heritage fade into oblivion.
Consequently, yesterday was a feel-good day for me despite the fact that I missed seeing my son and grandkids. It felt good to help out on a project where someone benefitted by your contribution of time. Consequently, I’d call it a day well spent. The experience reminded me of something I once heard Dr. Karl Menninger, famed psychiatrist say. I was attending a workshop at the Menninger Clinic in Kansas City. Someone asked Dr. Menninger what he’d recommend as a treatment option for depression. He said, “I’d suggest the depressed person leave his house and go across the street and help his neighbor”.
The Christmas season is a time of the year that many folks think about helping others in need. I don’t really understand why that should be defined by the season of the year. Shouldn’t the experience be ingrained in the fabric of who we are and happen on a regular basis? It falls under the auspices of “It is better to give than to receive”.
All My Best!
Apple Computer, Inc.
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