Saturday, August 18, 2012

Painting the town, or lighting it

kw: community service

When you do something for others, you never know quite what will happen. I am visiting relatives in Decatur, Alabama, and had some free time this morning. I heard on a local station (800 AM, WHOS) about Jim Cotter of Glouster, Ohio (CBS report), a retired painter. After his wife died, he decided to spend his time by painting the houses of his neighbors. He got permission from one person to paint the house, and did so, then went on to another. After some time, word got around, and people began to come along to help. Then a youth group got involved, and even people from nearby towns volunteered. According to the commentator I heard, they are very close to finishing the painting of every house in this town of 2,000.

It reminded me of the stories I heard the last time my wife and I visited her mother in Japan. Her father Sanshiro had recently died at age 86. He never really retired, because the couple and their sons ran a family grocery store, but the older man was less involved in the store after about age 70. The area they lived in, called Fujimi-cho, a part of Yokosuka, is very hilly. There are small paved lanes winding from house to house up the hillsides. Though the streets had municipal lighting, the lanes were dark at night. One day about 25 years ago, Sanshiro bought a few fluorescent fixtures and some wire and borrowed a 10 meter ladder. He put the lights up on the poles that carried telephone wires and initially hooked them up to his own electricity. With the support of his neighbors he convinced the city to allow him to tap into the city power used for the street lighting. For many years thereafter, often with the help of a neighbor or two, he put lighting up above the hillside lanes throughout Fujimi.

Finding a need, and filling it. That sounds like just about the best retirement plan ever. And who says you need to wait until you retire?

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