The Goodness of Strangers

baby s standing on gray floor rug
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There are times when we unexpectedly meet someone who finds a place in our hearts. So it was when we were in the process of repairing the damage done to our home by a faulty hot water heater last spring. The flow of heated liquid that literally rained down through the ceilings of two floors wiped out sheetrock, door frames and carpet. We had to employ dry wall specialists, carpenters and painters to repair the damage. Then it was time to think about replacing the carpet that had become sodden. For that we chose a local flooring store that came highly recommended.

From the moment that we met him we knew that the salesman who helped us was a knowledgeable and honest man who was going to take care of us without breaking our bank account. His name was Curtis and he looked as though he had seen a bit more of life than most of us ever do. His craggy face was lined with the wrinkles of experience and his eyes spoke of a man who always uttered what he thought to be the truth. With little fanfare he listened to our dilemma and showed us samples of carpet, wood flooring and ceramic tile giving us the specifications and costs of each. It soon enough became apparent that changing out the entire house with ceramic tiles that I had hoped to get would be enormously expensive and beyond the budget that we had after factoring in the other repairs. Furthermore replacing most of the carpet with wood would require literally rebuilding parts of the infrastructure. Curtis let us know that carpet was probably our best alternative and would come at an affordable price because there were still many sales in effect in the aftermath of hurricane Harvey.

Curtis helped us select a carpet that had a twenty year warranty and he made suggestions for cleaning our tile and brightening the wood flooring that we already have. He made an appointment to come measure our rooms with the promise of being at our home at exactly the time that we chose. True to his word he arrived exactly at the appointed hour and carefully inspected and measured each room. While he guided us through the process of redoing over half of the rooms in our home he told us about his life and the many directions it had taken. He was interesting to say the least.

Curtis was a jovial fellow who had endured both good and bad times and somehow kept up his optimism in the process. He literally seemed like someone we might like to invite for dinner and maybe a few drinks. His gravelly voice and lanky frame attested to his smoking habit in which he did not indulge in our presence but which had left its mark on his health.

Both my husband Mike and I really liked Curtis and the great job that he did for us at a time when we were feeling a bit overwhelmed. He had such a personal touch that we swore that if we ever decided to change out our current tile and wood flooring for something new we would undoubtedly go back to see Curtis. I vowed to send people to him if they were in the market for flooring renovations.

Time flies and it has been almost a year now that we have been enjoying the carpet that Curtis helped us to find. We knew that we were nearing the moment when it needed to be cleaned so we stopped by the store where Curtis worked this week to get a recommendation from him on which company to employ. It was a grey rainy day and we looked forward to sharing a few stories and laughs with Curtis for we knew that he was a man who brought a bit of sunshine into even the dreariest situation. We were quite disappointed when we saw that he was not working that day, so we had to make our inquiry to the young woman who was there.

She was quite friendly and open and took the time to provide us with brochures and coupons for the carpet cleaning company that she views as the best. While she was creating a nice packet of information for us Mike happened to glance at a framed photo of Curtis that sat on the counter. Shockingly it was a memorial for him, announcing and lamenting his death last summer. We were both immediately saddened and expressed our dismay out loud. The young woman informed us that Curtis’ death had been sudden and unexpected. In fact he had died in his sleep.

We left feeling let down and thinking about how this man that we had only encountered a few times had made such a lasting impression on us. A profound sense of grief washed over us as well as regret that we had not told him just how great he had made us feel. We never applauded his warm nature the way that we should have. We simply kept our thoughts to ourselves, and now we knew that he would never know how much we had appreciated him. All we could do is relay those feelings to the young woman who was working in his place.

We each have opportunities to make someone’s life just a bit more pleasant. Curtis had a way of doing that. He did not need to give the extra time and consideration that was his trademark, but he chose to be just a bit more helpful, a bit more prescient in understanding our particular needs. He was a good man, a cheerful man, a man who perhaps had not always been so lucky in life himself. He was someone who took the cards he was dealt and crafted a good hand out of them. We liked him very much as I’m certain his other customers did as well. We are sorry that he is no longer with us for he could not have been more than about fifty six or seven years old. Our consolation is that he did not suffer. He simply went to bed one night and never again awoke.

Curtis will be missed. He was a unique character, someone with a big heart and a smile to match. I’m glad we got to meet him. He reinforced our belief in the goodness of even strangers. May he rest in peace.

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