Monday, June 23, 2008


About a week ago, my doorbell rang. Although this does not sound unusual on the face of it, I don’t get many unexpected visitors and the ones I know are coming are mostly friends who either gently knock or simply let themselves in. The doorbell usually only rings when the visit has a more formal nature to it and, unfortunately, usually from someone trying to sell me something. Such was the case last week. My response is usually “thanks, but no thanks” (which, I should say, is an improvement - I didn’t used to be nearly so nice), and although this particular solicitor received much the same response, I also invited him to check back with me in a few days to see if his services were needed.

Today, my doorbell rang once again and once again I answered it expecting someone to try to sell me something. I was correct, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was the same solicitor following up on his prior sales call - at my invitation. Daniel lives in my neighborhood; he is 12 years old. When he first came around, he wanted to know if he could do any yard work or wash my car. My yard didn’t need any tending and my car was recently washed, so I told him to keep an eye on my car and when it looks like it’s dirty, hit me up. I haven’t washed it since - not in anticipation of Daniel’s return (I didn’t really think he’d come back) - but because I have been too busy.

As I loaded my computer and my camera (and my coffee, newspaper, breakfast bar and all the other crap I haul to work everyday) into my car, I noticed that a couple of birds had made their presence known upon the hood of my car. True, it might have been the same bird on a particularly productive day, but the evidence was prominent - it was washday for sure. Fortunately, my opportunistic neighbor noticed that my car was dirty and again offered his services. I have a 2007 Toyota Camry SE… not a huge car, but not exactly a compact either. I asked young Daniel how much he would charge for a car like mine. “Well, it’s not too big… I’d say about seven dollars.” I said, “How about ten?” We had a deal.

While Daniel rode his bike home to get his bucket and washrags, I moved my car to the middle of the driveway and uncoiled the hose. He spent about 15 or 20 minutes washing my car - except for a strip about one foot wide on the roof that he couldn’t reach. While washing my car, he attracted the attention of two young girls riding by on their bikes. They obviously knew each other, but the girls appeared to appreciate this young man’s initiative. I know I do.

And that is really the point of this piece; with all the politics and the polarization in this country, there is at least one young man who is out there doing something. He’s not asking for anything, he’s working for it. It gives me faith that perhaps, just maybe, this county still has at its core what made it great in the first place. In the face of adversity, when the easy way out just won’t do, the words of John F. Kennedy come to mind, “Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.” And… what you can do for yourself. Daniel knows how.


kenju said...

The kids in my neighborhood never ask for work; I guess they are already given what they need by their parents. It's too bad.

mckay said...

very timely post, mikey. my CIO just used the JFK quote yesterday at work, as we try to get employees to join task teams and volunteer committees.

it seems people love to eat at BBQ picnics, but no one wants to plan them; something that has been my responsibility for the past three years - i've yet to enjoy a work party, since i've always been the one in charge of the events.

Anonymous said...

That has to rank right up there with the best short story and editorials I have ever read....beautiful Michael, you know that's the stuff awards are shelled out for.....?

beautiful, beautiful, beautiful

Ellen said...

Ah, yes, the overproductive bird... I have one that lives in a tree that hovers over my driveway. I sure could use a Daniel in my neighborhood.

How nice of you to up the ante for him, truly showing that you appreciate his initiative.

I don't know if you have ever caught the show, "Sweet Sixteen", in which snooty/spoiled teens plan an over-lavish birthday party for themselves. Between the pre-party, and the actual event, parents spends upwards of $100K.... and in some cases (most), that doesn't include the price of a brand new Beemer they bought for the kid. It's almost disguisting to see these kids who do not know the difference between want and need, and who will feel like their life is over if Mommy and Daddy say no to any of their demands.

Watching this show made me wonder what the future generation would offer society.... reading your story made me have some hope that there are some kids left with a sense of work ethic.

Lovely story.

a most peculiar nature said...

Great story !

Jean-Luc Picard said...

An excellent story there.

Michele sent me here.

Anonymous said...

An excellent post Michael. Thanks for sharing it.

Snaggle Tooth said...

Sometimes a few ask if they can shovel in the winter, but ignore raking leaves time...
My area is pretty modest until the tourist season sets in-

I hope more folks get inspired to take action.

R.G. said...

I like the way you asked him what he thought the job was worth. It made him think and consider his value.

First time here. Will be a frequent visitor.