“Sometimes it only takes one act of kindness and caring to change a person’s life.”(Jackie Chan)
Francis and I now enter over forty years of casual condominium living in a two story building overlooking a pleasant lake in South Florida. Over that extended time period, for the most part, unit owners in our facility have adjusted well to cooperative, multistory living conditions with seemingly little fanfare. Yet there have been renters at times, who’ve challenge the existing board rules. Such violations can be typically measured by accounts of unauthorized vehicles in assigned parking spaces, chaotic screams of unsupervised children locked inside apartments, the late night comings and goings of an extended family living in one unit, or the offensive blasts of loud music from partying college students in late night hours.
Such a displeasing home scenario, however, would clearly not be the case with Ray, our young renter from Wisconsin, who moved in by himself over a year ago to a rental unit below our apartment. For I quickly observed Ray to be a model resident as this neatly attired computer designer completed life’s routines of condo life so quietly each day. As the Corona pandemic deepened, I often wondered how his reclusively private lifestyle, however, might be impacting him emotionally inside.There were times, in this regard, when Wayne, Ray’s middle age father, would fly down from Wisconsin to spend “quality time” with him for a few weeks in his apartment. On those occasions, Wayne would sometimes seek me out at my front door for a friendly, “one on one” conversation or alternatively offer his services in the parking lot with his toolbox in hand for any handiwork that I might need. Not knowing Wayne very well, it seemed odd that this father figure seemed so amiable then and I thus fully intended to respectfully decline his helpful assistance. Yet our conversations would always end with his assertive insistence that I contact him 24/7 as needed.
On a recent Monday morning, after awakening around 6:30 am. to the ominous sounds of loud thunder and pounding rain. I glanced outside the kitchen window to a most unsettling event. For why was Wayne so obsessively polishing up the faded headlight covers of my car amid such a storm deluge? Had I even told him to do this? In fact, he would expand his efforts to beautify the outside of my vehicle for several more days that week with washings, waxings, polishings, and dent repair poundings. Something was definitely missing that I needed to know in solving this puzzling equation.
Perhaps I should have suspected my more direct connection with Ray’s past life as the reason why Wayne appeared so illogically driven to help someone like me that he barely knew. So in a followup conversation with Wayne, that morning, I would come to more clearly understand his altruistic motives. For his son, I was told, had once precariously survived by living in his car as a homeless person nearby the Community College I once taught at as a professor. He further unsealed past memories of his reserved son successfully completing my College Preparatory Reading class at that poverty stricken time as a critical first step toward future attainment of his career aspirations in the computer field. Wayne’s acts of unselfish kindness thus simply expressed thanks to me for being a positive role model to Ray in his time of great need. Sadly, this would be the last conversation I would have with Wayne as his son would soon move out of his apartment and return to a better job opportunity in Wisconsin. But those fond memories of such honest kindness contagion will reside in my soul for the remainder of my lifetime.