Monday, June 27, 2011

The Work

Yesterday, as I was outside working on my car, a young woman came up to me in the driveway.  She held up a clipboard as she approached, but I began the encounter by shaking my head even before I could hear what she was saying.

She was in her early to mid-teens, I guessed.  Right away, I assumed she was selling magazines, or had a similar sort of scam going, so I was not inclined to even hear her out.  She was undeterred by my negative body language and attitude and kept approaching.  Soon she was close enough and was clear enough in her voice and demeanor to cause me to relent and listen to what she was saying.

She was, in fact, proposing to paint our house number on the curb by the mailbox.  Now, it happens that we have no number there, and it wasn't more than a day ago that I took note of that while getting the mail, thinking to myself that I ought to do that...someday.  This is what I love most about synchronicity, the way that two seeming random incidents are clearly connected.  There's no science here, just feeling, and it's a damn good one.  Click.  Connection made.

I felt the spark, yet still, I was reluctant to go with the flow.  Even as I heard her offer for the first time, I was still in a negative posture and inclination, but in spite of these feelings, I was also somehow opened to her offer.  Sensing this, she persisted and had me look at the images on her clipboard, telling me as she did that her rate was $15 for just the number or $20 with one of the images.

Her images included the Texas flag and a Longhorn, which was my choice.  I offered $15 for the number/image package, and though a bit surprised, she took the counter-offer, saying "Ok, I need the work."

She didn't say 'money'.  She said 'work', like she was proud of the distinction.  She obviously flet that there was difference between what she was doing and merely hustling for money.  As a long-time entrepreneur and worker myself, I really appreciated that attitude.  I said, "Ok, you do your thing and I'll go get the money."

I went inside to get the cash as she set to work, opening her backpack to take out her paints as she knelt at the curb.  She did a great job, painting a black background first, then the white numbers entirely by hand with a little orange Longhorn to the side.  As she worked, I struggled to keep Loki out of her way, and even got her a soda when I saw how hot and thirsty she looked.

It took her all of twenty minutes to finish.  She mopped her brow with the back of her hand as I handed her $20 with a little speech about how she reminded me of myself, trying to sell TV Guide and Fuller Brush door-to-door when I was in my early teens.  She took the cash and listened patiently to the story with a wry smile.  I asked if she'd gotten much work in the neighborhood and she said this was her third job on this street.

As she walked off, I marveled at her courage, strength and attitude toward life.  I believe--and this from my own experience and heart of hearts--that it really is possible to make your way in this world if you are willing to do whatever work it is that it takes to get there.  This young woman has every bit of that.

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