About once a year, the man who re-paints the numbers on the street in front each house comes into our neighborhood. He doesn’t work for the city; he works alone at this as his sole way of making a living.
I almost missed him this year as I was rushing to pick up Slick from the vet late in the day after his teeth-cleaning.
Just as I was pulling out of the driveway, I noticed the minivan and saw the man with his reflective gear. I flagged him down as he was getting ready to leave for the day and he greeted me in his usual polite manner.
I asked him how he was doing and he said he had had a bad day. He had only made $15 re-painting faded street numbers in the area. He told me $25 was a good day. Even though we really didn’t need our numbers painted, I decided to stick to “our schedule,” particularly since he was going to go home with only $15 after a day out in the chilly weather. So, I asked him to paint one set of numbers since the previous year he had painted the other set on the curb. The first time we met about 7 years ago, we had both sets re-painted and since then, the ritual has been to alternate repainting each set of numbers.
When we first met years ago, he was being driven by his father, an older man who was obviously watching out for his son. You see, the street number man seems to have some sort of disability, something that would prevent him from working in a fast-paced office or completing an academic program. A few years ago, his father stopped driving him and ever since then, the street number man has been on his own.
While he was getting out his little kit of spray paint and stencils, we had a chat. As he brushed away the dirt on the curb with a steel brush, he told me that he was always happy to see me, since I was always so nice to him. I was taken off-guard by the comment and I wondered what it must be like to drive around and knock on doors every day to offer his unique service. I wondered how many people weren’t nice to him. I decided to delve a little more into who he was and asked him he had ever been written up in the paper.
The local paper has a “Life” section that is essentially written by one very busy and talented woman who manages to come up with interesting local stories day after day. I was actually surprised that the street number man had never been featured. But then again, this woman is probably out all day and never has even had had a chance to meet him.
Suddenly, I had an idea that I could help the street number man’s business by suggesting that the writer do a story about him! I asked him if I could send her an email with the suggestion. When he said yes, I dashed back into the house to grab my camera. The light was already dwindling but I managed to get the shot you see in this post. My reasoning, I told him, was if I could post the picture and his story, I could send a link to it to the writer and she could get an idea of what he did. He told me his name, revealed that he didn’t use a computer, but had a listed phone number and lived on his own, so she should be able to contact him.
So, Leon the street number man won’t see this post I’ve written about him but, hopefully, the writer will check out the link I send to her on Monday.
Because, when I see how this industrious, patient, meticulous individual is working hard every day to actually accomplish something in spite of any limitations he might have, I find it very inspirational and moving, especially when I compare his qualities to what we DON’T see displayed by those “smart” people who run the world. He deserves to have his moment in the sun.
If the people who jockey for power had half the quiet nobility of spirit and courage that Leon has, we’d be in a better place. He deserves the community’s admiration, more than any politician does.
With any luck, Leon and I will meet again next year. I think I’ll ask him to paint BOTH sets of house numbers on the curb, not just one.
I really want to make sure he has a good day…
Happy New Year, everyone.