Ben was a neighbor. He was a smaller man with shiny wrinkles, a hat that reminded me of every middle class ĎJoeí from the 50ís. He wore suspenders and slacks with scuffed leather shoes. He lived down the street with his bride of many years. Let me tell you about him.
You see, my dad had taken a perfectly good back yard and determined that a double car garage was needed to fill up all that extra play space, so Ben came over to take a look. The pronouncement came with a ready smile. It seemed there was enough room and Ben was willing to take on the job.
Ben was in his seventies at the time.
Out came the rock garden and fountain from the center of the backyard. Grass was removed and the land was leveled. A cement pad was poured and Ben labored (mostly alone) in building the frame for my familyís new garage.
I would watch Ben through the kitchen window as he grabbed his hat by the crown and remove it; he would pull out a handkerchief from his back pocket and wipe his sweaty brow.
If my mom or dad would allow it, I would go out and talk to Ben. He always had a kind word for me and didnít seem to mind an appreciative audience no matter the age.
Some days Ben would need to stay home, nursing an illness or just a little too tired to make a go at garage building. Then there was his wife to take care of, so our garage would wait for Ben - and so would I.
Ben treated that garage as if he were building it for royalty. He measured twice and cut once. He made sure each 2x4 was level, each piece of lapboard siding fit like a glove. Each hammer stroke hit strong and sure. He was a carpenterís carpenter. He had a great deal of common sense and he loved people and people loved him.
Our garage was taller than most. Ben built it that way so that we could have an attic. Pull-down-stairs were added by my dad so that we could gain access to memories placed in the rafters of Benís garage.
Dad could have hired any carpenter in town to come and build a garage. It would have been done much more quickly than Ben was able to do it, but this garage was not about efficiency, it was not about keeping up with the Jonesís - It was about much more.
When the garage was completed, Ben packed up his tools and walked a few doors down the street to his own house. He looked at the garage every time he drove by in his Buick. Then he would smile and wave as I played in the smaller back yard.
He had built the garage and it bore his mark. He did his best job and my dad let him take all the time he needed.
Yeah, I learned a few things from Ben.
1. Try to be a good neighbor.
2. Donít cut corners.
3. Family is important, take time for them - no matter what.
4. Be sure you can go home at the end of your day knowing you did your best.
5. Be considerate of others.
6. Donít let age hold you back from doing your best.
7. Children are much more than distractions.
8. A good attitude affects those around you.
9. People may often remember you more for who you were than for what you did.
If was only a few years after the garage was built and Ben passed away.
I can still see his face clearly as he passed by the house and waved. I can still see him bent over his work on a garage that was finished nearly 30 years ago.
Ben is among a long list of people who have helped lay a foundation for me during my formative years. It seems that there are fewer and fewer ĎBensí out there for our children to look up to. People of strong character and good morals who gently share a moment with children in need of a little guidance.
No matter how young (or old) you are, you need a Ben (or Mary) in your life. Someone who is willing to share a passing moment or two in order to encourage you and help you grow. Some look for this kind of friend their entire lives and it seems as if that person just doesnít exist. Perhaps you and I are the Ben (or Mary) that someone needs right now.
PLEASE ENCOURAGE AUTHOR,
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I loved this. This would fit with the Reminisce magazine and others like it. Now, I'm going to bed and think about the "Bens" that taught me in life. Joyful and thoughtful writing. I wish I were a publisher. I would hire you right now.