I DID SOMETHING LAST WEEK that I’ve never done before.
It seemed risky, and I was a bit afraid of what might happen.
I’m painting the inside of my house because professional painters wanted $6,000 to do the job.
Actually, that seems fair given that a friend of mine, (Hi Lisa), told me on Sunday that painters gave her a bid of $1,600 to paint just her bathroom.
She painted it herself.
I, however, needed some help.
I have family and friends who would have helped.
But an odd idea fell into my head.
My church is involved in helping a local elementary school in which over 80 percent of the kids qualify for free lunch. I wrote a bit about that in For God’s sake, a day in the dirt.
The idea: check with the principal and a friend of mine who volunteers a lot at the school and see if I can hire some help from a parent of one of the kids at the school—a parent who needed a little extra money.
The fear: I was afraid that once I set that train in motion, I’d be committed to the recommendation—even if the help I got was someone who didn’t know a paintbrush from a mustache on a stick.
I genuinely worried someone would kick a bucket of paint onto my carpet.
It worried me enough that I double layered the carpet in protective shielding: one layer of 4mm-thick plastic secured with painter’s tape and then topped by a layer of tent-style canvas.
My school contacts recommended Miguel, a man who had been a carpenter in Mexico. The father of three daughters and one son, he now works at McDonalds. So does his wife. She also works at Sonic.
I offered to pay Miguel $10 an hour, which is a raise from his McDonalds salary, but less than the hourly rate of a $6,000-a-project professional painter.
I get painter’s help at a discount. Miguel gets a raise.
Chew on that McDonald’s, and try not to choke.
Miguel got off work from McD’s at 2 p.m. He arrived at my house at 3. To my surprise, he brought his son—a seventh grader. Miguel needed a translator for our more detailed discussions—those that went beyond a few words and into several sentences. His son helped him paint, too.
I appreciated what the boy did so I gave Miguel a $20 bonus each evening they came—and they helped me for three evenings, until about 8 o’clock each night.
That was enough to get the heavy lifting done—the job I feared most: painting the downstairs living room, kitchen, breakfast nook, dining room, library, and high stairway to the second level.
My wife asked me—late in the game—to consider adding a chair railing and wainscoting to the downstairs bathroom.
I didn’t even know what those were.
Chair railing? Our chairs don’t need rails. They’re not going anywhere.
Wainscoting? Who made that a word?
I was a bit embarrassed that my wife knew this lumberyard lingo and I didn’t.
I Googled it, YouTubed it, and was good to go to Home Depot. But I had to call my wife to come and help me pick out the right trim.
I should probably take down the sign on the door to the finished basement: Man Cave.
I’m just not feeling it right now.
Miguel helped me rail the chairs and scot the wains. He cut the trim. Perfectly.
I glued and nailed them to the drywall the next morning.
Sadly, a day later I put the paint on too thick. Imagine walls with cellulite. That’s something I no longer have to imagine.
Up next, liposuction.
I’ll be sanding the walls and trying again with paint a tad thinner. Advice my wife got from an Ace Hardware guy.
Yeah, I’m taking the Man Cave sign down for now.
So, I write books about the Bible, when I’m not painting. What’s the Bible link?
Miguel, still learning English, seems relatively new to this country—a stranger in the land.
He represents one of only three groups at risk to whom God—throughout the Bible—reminds his people to show compassion.
Don’t abuse or take advantage of strangers….Don’t mistreat widows or orphans.
I know there’s a lot of debate these days about how to manage strangers in the land.
It’s hard to go wrong with compassion.
The strangers I’ve met are hard-working souls. Maybe one way to show them compassion is to let them do what they do well: work.