I am currently working on a project for a widow. The lady lives at home with a high functioning son who is grown up but will never leave home due to a mental handicap.
They live together in a small home that they inherited from her grandparents.
When I came to do the bid on the kitchen remodel, I offered to them a few scenarios as “best decisions” for their life and tried to advise them on the best use of their personal funds.
I suggested that their home built in the 1960s (which is now the only residential home in a commercial district) cannot be flipped and sold as a residence due to the change in zoning, and that their 1100sqft home with single pane aluminum windows, no central air (in Texas), and ungrounded wiring is a money pit and that they cannot get the funds back that they might put into fixing up the home.
I explained a potential process of investment where we could build them a new home, and help convert their current property into a commercial lot and sell as a means of income for them. I have developed this plan over the years to aid homeowners in obtaining an affordable open floor plan and get away from what I call a “Bad House”.
The homeowner has slowly saved her pennies to do the work she wants, and could not get out of the mindframe of a consumer paying for work to be done. She did not understand that the kitchen remodel she wanted was a consumption of goods which would not yeild a return as an investment. And she didn’t understand that the other financial options (although involving a mortgage for a period of time) would yield a return from investment far beyond her entire life income. (she is only making $11/hr)
Her parents gave her the home. She never attended college. She is a kind, church going, minimalist who doesn’t need anything fancy in life. All she wants is a little nicer area to host guests. So, we elected to renovate her kitchen and bathroom, and repaint the home.
Her grandfather (1st owner of the home) smoked indoors, and the home hadn’t been painted since they purchased it. The bathroom (interior, with no window) does not have an exhaust fan. The walls and floors have been filled with cockroaches and mice for many years. The widow and her son are obese and unable to bend over easily and so the floor doesn’t get cleaned often enough. A few of the windows don’t close all the way or lock, and during work thus far, two subcontractors declined working on site because of the disgusting feel of the home.
I took pity on this woman and offered our services at a huge discount in order to provide her with the much needed update. I explained that due to low funds available, we would only have a few finishes to select from. We picked out the nicest things available on the market including granite countertops, quality paint, replaced broken interior doors, replaced exterior doors, and all hardware, cabinets, updated electrical in the kitchen and bathroom, and added an exhaust fan in the bathroom with an automatic humidity switch.
Now, having completed most of the work including additions which were not charged to her, but items which NEEDED to be done, (electrical, structural repairs, window repairs, and added insulation) she doesn’t care.
It’s almost as if there is no gratitude in her heart. She doesn’t care about the update, and is not excited. This is VERY unusual to me. My clients are always VERY excited to get the work done, and it is VERY common for me to hear repeatedly throughout the day, “This is so beautiful!”, “I’m so excited to see it coming together!”, or “WOW!” followed by a long happy blank stare. But this woman just kind of stares at it in the same lethargic, unemotionally involved way she interacts with everything.
I can only assume that there has been so much trauma in her life as to dampen her spirits and to shut off most emotion…
I am saddened working for her. I spend an extra 3 hours at her home last night to walk through the additions and extras (for which she was not being charged), and she did make a comment as to her surprise that I did all of these things at no charge. She was surprised that I was helping her, and doing these things because morally it was the right thing to do.
I wonder if she isn’t suspicious that I really did do the extras for free. I wonder if she isn’t just so shocked that someone is actually helping her and being kind. She did have a roofing contractor, septic service, and a plumber come to do work on her home previously, and they took her, and did a fair to poor job at their trade on her home...so maybe she is just used to being taken advantage of or that she is just trying to hide her fear of potential loss…
But, what this did teach me, is that in life, our relationships with others are the most important thing we can control. We must practice gratitude with others. We must be seeking for the good in the world and make a constant and concerted effort to thank and compliment others.
This world is so full of pessimism, doubt, fear, greed, anger, lust, and worry that there is a huge disregard for gratitude.
Due to my experience on this home, I have made an extra effort to thank my employees for their diligent work. I have been sure to hug my children and spouse more and to express to them my deepest love and gratitude for their life with me. I have tried to make a concerted effort to express gratitude and kindness to strangers everywhere I go.
Last night, I expressed to this client how grateful I was for the opportunity to help make her home beautiful. She responded, “I know the whole house is gross, and that the work won’t fix everything, but at least some of it will be less gross.”
I wish I could come into everyone’s life for long enough to lift their spirits. To understand their back story, how they were raised, their life experiences and their reactions to them. I wish I understood, from being with someone, who they really were; so that I could best know how to interact with them in a way so as to convince them that they are loved. To help them know that they can be happy now, and forever more. To share an outlook of optimism and hope in such a convincing way that they would believe it, and begin a life of happiness.
I am grateful for my career which takes me into the lives of some of the most wealthy, and some of the most downtrodden.
I have been able to remove mold, and create a healthy living place for people who have never experienced a clean home.
I have been able to take a failed citizen (drugs/jail/bad parent example) and give him/her a job and an example of kindness and honest living.
I have been able to learn from prosperous individuals, who have built a fortune, how to make a sound and lucrative investment.
I have seen some of the world’s most generous and kind individuals help me to find happiness and success, and simply want to help do my part to make the world a safe and secure place for others.