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In quiet neighborhoods, you find quiet people going about their lives, doing good things. Harold is one of those people. An introvert by nature, he finds himself happiest while changing the brake pads on an old truck or replacing a water heater.
A mechanic by trade, Harold lost his job in his early sixties. His wife Jeannette teaches English at the local high school. With their own kids grown, they don’t need a lot or want a lot. There is something liberating about being frugal and staying out of debt, even if it comes because you simply don’t see the need for a lot of stuff. So Harold and Jeannette live simple lives. And while his wife is in the classroom, Harold makes the rounds in the neighborhood. There’s always a widow who needs a faucet fixed or a teenager with a first car that needs the shock absorbers changed or the tires rotated.
Harold approaches each day the same way he has for years. He pulls on his coveralls and goes to work. He doesn’t run a small business, but he has a big heart. And while his wife teaches students to be clear in thought and articulation, Harold economizes language as if he is saving it up for some future outpouring.
“Yep, you got a leak. I’ll get my toolbox.” That’s about as much as you’ll get out of Harold. Even when you thank him, he’ll just wave.
In a world of oversharing, channels of information that flood our screens, and myriad ways to communicate, if you want to talk to Harold, you have to wander over to his workshop and knock on the door. There’s something reassuring, almost spiritually grounding, knowing that amid a chaos of change, there’s Harold, in his gray coveralls, with a wrench in his thick hands, willing to put his back into fixing the mechanical things that stress us out. Watching him work, slowly and methodically, is a Zen experience, gratifyingly meditative. Remove the old pipe, haul it to his truck, cut and thread a new pipe---the oil and shavings dripping into an old coffee can. He’s done this hundreds of times and knows how not to make a mess, not to rush. The pipe joint is dry-fitted, then pulled apart, pipe dope applied, then wrenched together. There’s no frustration, no hurry, only an ease and satisfaction in things being done right.
At the end of Harold’s life, his good deeds will come pouring out in the words of friends and family, a rush of appreciation that would have embarrassed their good-hearted neighbor with the skilled hands.
“He was there when I needed a hand,” many will say. And indeed, what a valuable thing that is these days. After all, our purpose is not to get the most likes, but to like most what we do for others.
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