The weather in my neck of the woods (6,000 feet above sea level) in the mountains of Arizona has turned cold early this year. Every morning and evening, the smoky aroma from fireplaces and wood stoves scents the air as folks warm their homes and stave off the chill.
Not everyone has alternative means of heating, however, and some people have to rely on gas, oil or electricity to power their heating systems. One such person was Judy T. Judy lived alone, and is in her late 70’s. She had arthritis pretty badly. The idea of chopping or even hauling wood or carrying bags of wood pellets to feed a stove was a nonstarter for her. She lived in a small cabin on a couple of wooded acres. The cabin was originally built as a summer home, but she lived in it all year round and it isn’t easy to keep it warm on our, admittedly, mild winter days.
Two years ago, Judy’s gas furnace ‘gave up the ghost’ and she happened to mention it to a friend. Her friend asked Judy what she was going to do for the winter and she said, “I’ll figure something out.” Now in our small town (962 souls), nothing stays a secret if more than one person knows about it. Judy’s friend mentioned her plight to another friend and, as is the way of such things, it came to the ear of Carl H., who owns a plumbing/heating company in the neighboring town (a metropolis of some 13,000 people). Now his company is not large. In fact it includes Carl, a helper, Carl’s wife who handles the phones, does the billing, scheduling and inventory, and a dog of indeterminate ancestry who ‘guards (?)’ the shop.
Carl talked with the local L.P. gas provider that served Judy’s home, and with no thought of profit or compensation of any kind, the two companies removed Judy’s outdated heating system and replaced it with a brand new, state of the art system, including new duct work, registers and all the goodies...absolutely free of charge.
Small towns have a communications network that would make the NSA proud, and within the trade community the story ‘got legs’ as the saying goes.
Additionally, Carl replaced a couple of faucets, a tub/shower valve that was easier for Judy to turn on and off with her arthritic hands and a handicapped height water closet for good measure, again, all free of charge. The only caveat either company had was that no one reveal what they had done, and that included yours truly. I asked if I could use the story for a column and they agreed as long as “names were changed to protect the innocent.” The reasons were three-fold; one, they did not perform this act of kindness and charity for accolades; two, they wanted to keep their involvement quiet to stave off more requests for their ‘free’ assistance; and three, they wanted to make sure that Judy’s privacy was protected.
Such is the nature of our society these days that their kindness to a neighbor in need would inevitably lead to other, more fortunate people, demanding such charity on their own behalf and, not getting it, would disparage these generous and genuinely good business people.
As I mentioned earlier though, small towns have a communications network that would make the NSA proud, and within the trade community the story ‘got legs’ as the saying goes and it wasn’t long before both Carl and the local L.P. gas company were being given kudos by other local business people for their generosity and compassion. Then the churches got wind of it and the good deed threatened to go public in a big way. The local newspaper wanted to run a story as well but, thankfully, some people with a lot of political pull and common sense (the two not being mutually exclusive) quashed it.
The story might end there, except it didn’t. Carl and the gas company went about their business, trying to make a living just like everyone else these days. If they thought about their act of charity at all, they never said anything. Judy, sadly, passed away the following year and the entire incident might have been forgotten except for said politician.
The larger town that I mentioned earlier happens to have been the home and “stomping grounds” of a famous author of the old west and our western heritage. His cabin and other outbuildings were designated as national historic buildings. Those buildings were victims of large forest fires some years back, and the loss was keenly felt by the local community. As it happens, the National Historic Register endowed the town with a grant to reconstruct the author’s cabin and outbuildings at one of the town’s premier recreational centers. Included in the grant were several interpretive centers and public restrooms as well as other on-site amenities.
Guess who got the plumbing and heating contract?
Is there a moral here? I sure hope so! Too often these days, it seems we are moving at such a fast pace and in such an insular manner that extending ourselves to help those less fortunate has become a thing of the past. Oh, sure, we give money to charity for others to distribute, or volunteer at the library, but how often do we actually get down in the trenches and do a good deed ourselves? Not merely throwing a few bucks at someone or something, but getting our hands dirty in the giving... and ask for nothing in return? I remember a time when such acts of charity were much more common than today.
While we applaud the “100 Giants” of our industry (and we should) craftsmen have the unique ability to materially affect the lives of those less fortunate than ourselves on an individual level. Especially at this time of year, when the days grow short and the holidays are upon us, we need to seek out opportunities to do so.
The Brooklyn, N.Y.-born author is a third-generation master plumber. He founded Sunflower Plumbing & Heating in Shirley, N.Y., in 1975 and A Professional Commercial Plumbing Inc. in Phoenix in 1980. He holds residential, commercial, industrial and solar plumbing licenses and is certified in welding, clean rooms, polypropylene gas fusion and medical gas piping. He can be reached at [email protected].