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40 Days of Kindness: Strangers’ Experienced Hands Work for Madison’s Children

The story begins on Feb. 26 during the 13th worst flood in Madison’s history. The Heritage Trail Conservancy has two buildings situated along the Ohio River in what was thought to be a reasonably safe distance from any possible flooding. That assumption was shattered when the building we use for meetings was filled up with 41 inches of filthy murky river water.

When the water receded, a layer of silt was left behind that required an extensive scrubbing to get the building usable again. A crew of offenders from the Madison Correctional Facility under the supervision of Officer Kevin McKay worked tirelessly to get the walls and floor back to as normal as possible. But left behind was a dingy interior of a flooded-out building. In less than two months, the Conservancy had scheduled its biggest community event of the year, the Caring for the Birds Workshop. The building would be teeming with children and parents. I did not want those young children to be in that windowless building without a paint makeover. So I headed up the hill to Sherwin-Williams paint store praying all along the way that I would receive some kind of divine guidance as to how I should go about painting the building. The manager was very helpful but I was confused with all the options. About that time a gentleman walked in the front door of the store wearing a Sherwin-Williams sweatshirt and looking very much the part of an experienced painter. I said to the man, “Excuse me. You look like an experienced painter and I have a painting job that I don’t know what I should do. Would you be so kind as to give me some suggestions?” He replied, “Sure. What you got?” I explained to him that I had a building that was flooded and I didn’t know what paint I should use since the walls might still have had moisture in them. He said it would be best for him to look at it before giving a recommendation. He said he was working at the Holiday Inn and he would be glad to go down after work hours and check it out. As it turned out, he got transferred to another job before he could come down but Jim, the superintendent over the whole remodeling job at the Holiday Inn and Daniel, his foreman, offered to come down on Saturday morning to look. When they showed up, I gave them a brief orientation of the mission of The Heritage Trail Conservancy and about the workshop and how much I wanted the dingy walls painted before the event to spruce up the work area. I explained to them that this workshop was for kids to build bluebird houses with their parents and that they would then be able to take the houses home. It was free of charge. As important as building houses for bluebirds is, what was more important, I explained, was providing an event where children had a special time with their parents working on a project that would have a long-term beneficial effect. Without hesitation, the foreman looked at his boss and said, “I would like to do this for Bob for the sake of the kids. I’m sure the rest of the crew will want to do it as well.” So they made arrangements to bring the whole crew down after a hard day’s work at the Holiday Inn with all their gear and knock it out. They are not only going to paint the rooms but they are going to put in baseboards and other trim to beautify the interior. I was floored! All this professional work as a gift from a bunch of guys I had just met a few minutes earlier who were from Indianapolis! What would motivate these men to do this? As Daniel said, “It was merely paying it forward, the blessings God had given us.”

This story was published in The Madison Courier on February, 27 2018. The original story can be viewed HERE.

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