Everyone slammed the door in the old man’s face except one woman who saw him for who he was and listened.
Jackson Merle was exhausted. He had been knocking on door after door in the neighborhood, looking for work, but no one would even listen to what he had to say. No one wanted to talk to an old man.
He stood in front of the biggest house on the block. This was his last chance for the day. Jackson just hoped the owner was more polite than his or her neighbors.
Every homeowner on the street had run Jackson off, without even listening to his proposal, maybe this one would be different? Jackson rang the doorbell. Within minutes a pretty young woman opened the door.
“Goodmorning,” she said cheerfully, “What can I do for you?”
Jackson was heartened by her sunny smile and friendly attitude. “Goodmorning, miss,” he said, “I’m a handyman, and I’m here to offer you and your family my services.”
This was the point when people usually said: “Go away,” or “Get lost, old man,” or “Go sell snake oil elsewhere.” One man had even used foul language on Jackson, but the young woman looked interested.
What kind of work do you do?” she asked.
“I do anything you might need, miss,” Jackson said, “I do some woodwork, painting, cabinet making, I fix small appliances, some gardening, anything you need — and my rates are very reasonable.”
Ruth’s neighbors wouldn’t even give jackson a chance to explain what he wanted — all they saw was a man they considered ‘too old’ to work.
“Come on in,” the woman smiled, “I have a table with a wobbly leg that needs fixing, and maybe you can paint my guest room?” Jackson couldn’t believe his ears. He walked into the woman’s beautiful house, toolbox in hand.
First, he fixed the table, while the woman — who introduced herself as Ruth — sat watching him work and chatting to him. Then he looked at the guest room. Ruth gave him money to buy paint so he could fix it up the next day.
She also paid him twice what he’d asked for the table. “But, miss, Jackson protested, “You’ve given me too much money!”
“No, I haven’t Jackson.” Ruth told him firmly, “My daddy always told me to pay a fair price for a job well done, and that’s what I’m doing!”
Over the next few weeks, Ruth’s neighbors were surprised to see the elderly man coming in and out of her house with his toolbox in hand. Somehow Ruth always found something that had Jackson coming back.
One afternoon, one of her neighbors, Jolene, saw Jackson leave and decided to find out what was going on. She knocked on Ruth’s door. “Hey, Jolene!” said Ruth cheerfully, “Come in, have a cup of coffee with me.”
Jolene walked into Ruth’s lovely home and looked around. “I don’t see why you need a handyman five days a week, Ruth,” she said, “Everything looks perfect.”
“I don’t,” Ruth said, pouring out the coffee, “But Jackson needs the work.”
“You’re giving him work just because he needs it?” asked Jolene, “Just like that? But why?”
“What better reason to give someone work other than that they need it, Jolene?” asked Ruth quietly, “This man is not asking for a handout, he is asking for good honest work.”
He’s what — seventy? Close to eighty, I’d say! He should be retired!” Jolene said.
“Yes, he should be, but unfortunately his wife is very ill, and their insurance won’t cover all her hospital costs. Jackson barely has enough to live on after paying the medical bills, which is why he needs to work.”
“Well, why don’t you just give him the money?” asked Jolene, “If you want to help so much, spare him all that hard work! You can afford it.”
Ruth shook her head. “I can’t do that, Jolene, that would be giving him a handout. I’d rather give him work so he can earn the money and keep his dignity and his self-respect.”
Jolene was moved by Ruth’s kindness and thoughtfulness, and the next day she popped in and asked Jackson if he had time to spare to fix up her rickety old gazebo in time for the weekend after he finished his work for Ruth.
Jackson fixed the gazebo and did such a good job that soon the entire neighborhood had him on speed dial. Jackson became the local handyman and earned enough to make ends meet.
Even after his wife recovered from her illness and was released from the hospital, Jackson carried on working for Ruth and his other customers. Thanks to Ruth’s kindness, Jackson got the opportunity to earn his money with dignity, and to provide for his family.
What can we learn from this story?
- Giving a man work allows him his dignity and builds his self-esteem. Ruth could have just given Jackson the money, but she realized that he needed to feel useful and respected too,
- Everyone deserves an opportunity to prove what they can do. Ruth’s neighbors wouldn’t even give Jackson a chance to explain what he wanted — all they saw was a man they considered ‘too old’ to work. Ruth gave him the opportunity to show what he could do.