“I’m getting cabin fever, want to take a walk?” “Sure.” My wife and I headed out the door with our 6 month old son in our stroller. We sauntered down the sidewalk in the Sunday summer heat and talked about the coming week.
On the sidewalk ahead, a man and a woman were struggling to put a large couch onto a small dolly. I thought to myself, I’m a good guy, I’ll help them. They didn’t speak English so we exchanged some hand motions and after some struggling, they were headed down the street trying to balance their newly acquired treasure on their tiny cart. Man, it was hot! Before we continued walking, I asked where they were going. “Grant St.,” they said. That was almost a mile away! Cars were lined up behind them on the street trying to get by. The couch was too wide for the sidewalk. “Wow,” I thought, “It’s going to be a long walk for them.” They were struggling to keep the cart straight and upright and had only gone a few feet.
My wife and I continued down the sidewalk toward the affluent Elmwood Village. I couldn’t shake the image in my head of that poor couple struggling with the enormous red couch. I told my wife that I should’ve helped them. She looked at me and said,”It’s going to bother you all day if you don’t help them. Go for it, we’ll meet you on Elmwood when you’re done.”
Not too many wives would be willing to interrupt a family walk to let their husband help random people move a couch to a questionable neighborhood. My wife is special. More about building a supportive marriage here: Successful Leaders Invest in Their Marriage
I ran back toward the couch wrestlers and let them know that I would be returning with my truck to help. I’m not sure if they understood me so I quickly ran back to get my truck. I pulled up next to the couch and the woman was standing next to it with a thankful look in her eyes. I asked where her husband was. Polite laughter was the only response. Okay, I figured he be back soon so I started loading the couch on top of my ladder rack. My truck bed was already full of metal scrap. We both pushed and struggled and eventually hoisted the heavy sectional onto the rack.
The woman motioned down the street where I saw her husband carrying a second couch on his little cart. Oh boy, this was becoming an ordeal. But, what’s another couch. We lifted the second couch onto the rack and after a few minutes of grunting, climbing, shimmying and sweating, the couches were in place. I invited them into my truck. All three of us sat on the front bench seat and off to Grant St. we went. It turns out the man knew a little bit of English. His name was Vincent. He, his wife and their four daughters had arrived in Buffalo a month ago from The Congo. He was a French teacher. They were a very friendly couple. After a lot of pointing and wrong turns, we pulled up to their apartment building.
Rough characters were posted up on the corner looking us up and down. “Don’t mind us,” I thought, “just dropping off a few couches.” We unloaded the couches onto the sidewalk. Sweat darkened our clothes and dripped from our faces. “What floor do you live on?” I asked. Vincent flashed his last 3 fingers. He wasn’t a very big man, his average sized wife towered over him. Without my help, his couches would be a permanent fixture on the busy sidewalk.
I was in deep now. I offered to help, Vincent politely refused and then quickly accepted.
Above is the first of 3 flights of stairs. It was an epic struggle to get the first couch up. I was beginning to regret my decision to help. On the second flight of stairs, the couch got lodged between the floor and ceiling. There was no way it was going to fit.
We made such a racket from trying to force the couch up the stairs, I started hearing yelling from the second floor apartment door. Oh man, the last thing I wanted to do in this building was piss off the neighbors. The door of the apartment shook, more yelling. Finally the door burst open and two men came out yelling in a language I had never heard before and began using aggressive hand motions.
They were trying to help!
After a whole lot of yelling and motioning, both couches were carried through their second floor apartment and up the back fire escape to the third floor. We were all exhausted and drenched with sweat. Four grateful girls from the congo stood there sheepishly looking at us with gratefulness.
Vincent offered to send me home with some breast milk from his wife for my son. He had nothing else to give. I respectfully declined. He told me he would pray for me. I promised to come back and visit.
On my way out, the men on the second floor offered me a cold drink and we celebrated our accomplishment together.
What’s the point? It’s a day I will remember forever. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t efficient and it probably wasn’t smart to follow this rabbit trail. For the first time in quite some time, I felt completely alive! There was danger, struggle, inconvenience and joy all wrapped into one. I miss many opportunities but this time I said “yes,” and it made me wonder what else I was missing.
There are opportunities for adventure and joy everywhere around you. They may be disguised as inconveniences and distractions but don’t be fooled. Try saying yes today, it might just make your month!