Story by Irene Budzynski
Widow. The word strikes a cold dagger into any woman’s heart, but, especially if she is in her forties and raising two pre-teen children. Fran’s husband had died of cancer, leaving her with mountains of debt, no life insurance, and no savings. She was in that abyss of shock and disbelief which joins arms with grief, oblivious to the physical condition of her surroundings.
Projects aborted by illness remained unfinished. Tools had been left on a workbench, purchased supplies were bundled in their hardware store wrappings, and paint cans were neatly lined up against a cellar wall. In addition to partially completed repairs and revamping inside, the outside of the house had become a victim of the cruel winter weather, faded and neglected, the way Fran’s heart felt when faced with the seemingly insurmountable tasks left for her.
Winter mercifully ended and the spring thaw nudged her to acknowledge the need for repainting the house. There were several ads for house painters in the classified section of the local newspaper, but, when called, the quoted prices were beyond belief. After all, her spouse had done all construction and repairs. Never was there a need to hire someone else. She was in a quandary: very little money and a great need for the house to be painted. It wouldn’t survive another year without protection.
The last man contacted on the list of advertised numbers was quiet and polite. He came to the house to assess the job and assured Fran it could be done in a reasonable time frame. Normally a private person, Fran told the painter during the conversation about her situation. He didn’t say much, walking around the perimeter of the house and staring at the two story building. There was a lengthy pause when asked the estimate for the job, and his answer astounded the widow: “There will be no charge.”
The explanation given was that the painter’s best friend had died several years before and, as a gift to the widow, he had painted the house for free. Since that time whenever a needy person was discovered, he and his crew painted one house a year at no charge to the recipient. As he told Fran, “This year you are it’.”
Ever the streetwise consumer, Fran refused to believe the ludicrous offer. Thinking it was a scam, she needed input to shore up her conviction that no one in his right mind would paint an entire house and not charge a nickel. Knowing what the going rate was for the week long project, she was certain it wasn’t possible. Offers like this didn’t occur in a little town in New England.
She was finally convinced to trust the painter’s word and accepted the gift. The following week a crew in two trucks showed up early on a Monday morning and began to strip the sides of the house. They returned each day, setting up their ladders, paint brushes in hand, working at the job until it was complete. There was never a charge.
The house stands proud in its new coat, withstanding the wind and rain. Fran thought she was left alone during tough times, but God didn’t abandon her. He knew that her children needed her, so He sent along the right man for the job. Fran’s trust was renewed and, for the first time, was given the glimmer of hope that she would withstand the buffeting winds of her new life as a single parent. She had been blessed with God’s promise that she would make the long, difficult journey to the other side of the chasm of her struggle. The first step had been taken with the stroke of a brush.
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