When thank you is enough


The husband and wife couldn’t have been more grateful. The woman asked if we wanted something to drink or eat. I told her that I was fine and got right to work. A large group of coworkers and I were helping out a local organization that helps senior citizens with basic chores to help keep them mobile and in their own homes.

The couple’s house was a little rough around the edges and you could see signs that it needed work, but it was generally in a good condition. We were asked to clean up boxes in a detached garage and rake up fallen leaves. I remember thinking that it was all pretty simple stuff, the kind of chores I’d get to in the evening after coming home from work or maybe on a cool Saturday morning before kicking back and watching some college football.

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What did I sign up for?

Two of my coworkers and I took a look around the property, got our bearings and got down to work. The garage was a little more than we bargained for, there seemed to be boxes inside boxes that needed to be searched, organized, and much of the material set out for th trash. The yard too seemed to never end. I raked so many leaves and chopped enough wood that I thought my arms would fall off.

After a few hours work, my coworkers and I put our tools away and took a look around at what we had accomplished. We were a sweaty mess, but we joked that with a few more weekends work and maybe a few more volunteers we just might get the place looking clean enough for military inspection.

The power of thank you

Before we could run off, the couple greeted us on the front porch. The man looked like he might fall over with a stiff breeze. His hands shook ever so gently, but he held his head high. He told me that he used to work in a local textile mill and took care of the property on his own up until just a few years ago.

“We don’t have much, but we can’t thank you enough,” he said. “What do we owe you for all this work? You got families. You got things to do. We owe you something.”

One of my coworkers reminded the couple that they didn’t owe us anything, that it was our pleasure. The woman though had a tear in her eye. She couldn’t stop holding onto my arm. You would have thought that we had built her a new home.

“We owe you something,” she kept saying. I shook my head no and said her thanks was enough.

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A thank you that never goes away

I drove away and probably spent the rest of my afternoon watching football or relaxing, certainly nothing that jumps out in my memory. It’s been a few years since I volunteered at the couple’s house, but I happened to be doing errands recently that took me on their street. When I drove by their house, I slowed to take a good look. The place looked the same. I wondered if the couple still lived there. I hoped they were, but I couldn’t really tell.

I thought about getting out of my car and knocking on their door, but I doubted they would remember me. I certainly remember them and how much they touched me. They made my coworkers and I feel like giants of men even though our contributions were pretty small in the grand scheme of things.

In the end, the volunteers were the ones who were helped. Funny how that works.

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