7. The Man Who Paints Street Numbers…(Final Installment in Our “Season of the Heart” Series)

~~By InsightAnalytical-GRL

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.

19 Responses

  1. What a beautiful story. I am sure we will read about more people in the coming months. You are right…we must all remember to be nice and supportive. Hoping our 2009 is better than we are expecting.

  2. Bless you Grl for trying to help this man. Hopefully the lady that writes the articles will see this as worthwhile.I certainly do and were there a “Leon” in my area I would take advantage of what he has to offer.

    To compare the value of the service Leon offers to most politicians is an insult to Leon. Most of our “representatives” in Washington D.C. sit on their “brains” and collect a remuneration far above the service they provide. Rubber-stamping whatever the power-brokers in your party or the lobbyists that “own” your party, either party, is not worth the $15.00 Leon earned.

    I hope the word spreads and more people take advantage of Leon’s services.

  3. IA,

    You are such a thoughtful, caring person and it is a great privilege to know you. How many people would take the time to care about this man’s circumstances much less try to do something about it? No wonder the IA people are a special breed. Like attracts like and this blog is going to go sky high in the new year.

  4. What a lovely post. Through the years I have met many, many people like Leon, and each of them were hardworking, wonderful people. There was the man, George, who came around every year in the spring, with his sharpening equipment. He’d ring his bell, and we would bring out the knives and lawn clippers. Sadly, he stopped appearing 10 years ago, – my bleeding knives have never been the same and I may as well break down and buy new lawn clippers cause they couldn’t cut butter despite several attempts to have them sharpened at retail establishments.
    Back in the day, we used to have an Italian chap who pushed around a cart full of fresh vegetables from his own plot. It was wonderful produce, free of pesticides and doubly delicious because it was so fresh. Sadly, he passed away, and his sons had no interest in pursuing that particular career path however, much to their surprise, his funeral was packed solid with his customers.
    I hope your columnist highlights the service Leon is performing (and perhaps he’ll obtain a few more customers – all to the good). We need more stories about people working and prevailing against the odds.

  5. Leon is my ideal of what the American workforce should be once again: honest, hard work offered in a friendly manner in return for wages that reflect the value of services rendered (not excessive salaries like the Pols KM refers to, or CEOs that earn millions while others earn their gluttonous salaries and perks for them).

    GRL you have (to paraphrase Yeshua) taught Leon how to fish! What a wonderful gesture on your part, and it cost you nothing but a little compassion (of which you have lots to spare). May we all take a lesson from you in this New Year and reach back to help someone else up the ladder! I think we will all need it…

    Happy 2009 Everyone!

  6. This is a great story. I had a man in my neighborhood that did that one year and never again. Everyone on my street had them done, but he never came back.

  7. You know he kind of looks like your guy; I wonder if he just likes your neighborhood better?

  8. Leon might think about expanding into painting labyrinths in churchs parking lots or a designated area. I have seen them.

  9. I will update this story if the columnist writes about Leon!

    She is an EXCELLENT writer and I’m going to really push for it!! I asked him if all this was OK and Leon said, YES, so I have my fingers crossed it works out for him….

  10. Nice story. Let’s hope there is a nice outcome.

  11. What a nice story; and wonderful gesture on your part.
    I hope Leon’s story is picked up. I wish I had a Leon in my neighborhood

  12. ….ah, to be reminded of real hope and community has been the best present I have received this year! Many mahalos to you IA for having such a huge heart and a quickwitted brain to go with it to achieve greater heights for our fellow man!

    Rock On!


  13. Thanks for this great story! I’m sure you will be rewarded greatly for the kindness you have afforded this man. Some people call it Karma, or a blessing from God….or what goes around comes around. Either way, you deserve a great big hug for your humanity. I hope Leon has many “good days” in 2009.

  14. A kind and noble gesture by one whose interest rises above self to render a good deed to another so well deserving. Happy New Year to IA, Leon, and fans.

  15. insight, you are true to your name. thanks so much for this story. i so admire people like Leon and am far more interested in, and moved to write about them, than I am in writing about what passes for many of our “elected” officials these days…well, except to expose and defuse them…

    Go Fitzpatrick! ;))

  16. Such an inspiring story. Thoughtfulness is something we need to use often. And, the rewards of being thoughtful are enormous.

  17. ia, thank you for a trip through the past. When I lived in Houston (for twenty years) there was a man who came around every year to paint the numbers on the curb. We had our house numbers on the house itself, but those numbers on the curb made it so much easier for people to find us. Almost everyone on the street took him up on his offer to paint and we each paid him five dollars. I’d completely forgotten about this fellow, probably because curbs are unknown here in the little town where I live now.

    HT, your problem with sharpening is becoming more and more common. Hubby’s a machinist who specializes in sharp stuff. I’m talking BIG, sharp stuff…industrial cutters, etc. His shop rate is sixty dollars an hour but he’ll still sharpen a knife for you for three bucks. I asked him “Why do you do that?” and he replied, “Because no one else will.”

  18. Sounds like a great guy!

  19. Have to comment on the knife-sharpening. One of my, uh, I do not even know what to call them–little fantasies?–is to get a lathe, put it in my garage, put a sign out on the sidewalk that reads, “Knife sharpening, Saturday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.” I would just sit in my garage with a book and let the neighbors come over with their stuff. I put it on the wheel; we chat for a few minutes. I would do this a few times a year. Seems like a neighborly kind of thing. Maybe I’d have a BUCKet out so they could drop in a BUCK or two.

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