Douglas K. Beagley
Middlebury, Vermont, USA
This may sound strange, but my landlord is my hero.
When I first decided to rent from him, some people whom I was living with laughed and said, “Careful, we know him; he’s an accountant!” The image of a money conscious, cranky old man leapt to mind, but the rent was reasonable and heat was included.
I discovered a landlord who was incredibly conscientious. He listed carefully each of the apartment’s faults, and since I’ve lived here he’s cleaned my windows, fixed my faucet and given useful advice. After forgetting to pay my first month’s rent, he had every reason to grow cold to me, but remained congenial (albeit firm) and gave me a second chance.
After living in Vermont for five years, I am very used to digging my ancient car out of the latest snow storm. Early winter mornings mean freezing hands, soaking feet and an aching back. This January, however, while starting my car up, I suddenly realized that I hadn’t had to dig my car out all season. The snow had been light, certainly, but not THAT light. After puzzling it over, I decided that the small lot must have been plowed while I was out.
Then a snow storm hit. It was so bad that the school I work at was canceled. While lazing the day away on my computer, I decided to get rid of some junk that had been collecting dust, and I called my landlord. (Did I mention he provides free storage space?) “Hello Douglas,” he answered, “I’m sorry I haven’t gotten to your car yet, do you need to get out?”
I had no idea what he was talking about. Then it hit me. “Sir,” I stammered, “Do you… do you shovel out our cars?” I asked, ashamed at the image of this spindly, graying man working out in the cold while I surfed the ‘net in my slippers.
“Well, yes, I always try to get the tenant’s cars free, after I get the walkway and the stairs clear, of course.” I was astonished, struck silent. He continued, “Of course I’m always careful to use a plastic shovel so I don’t ding the paint.”
All I could say was, “Ah, I guess that makes sense.”
I knew my landlord was an accountant; I knew he was an incredibly helpful and sensible man; I knew he was a good man to rent from. What I didn’t know was that he could teach me what a good citizen is. I didn’t expect to be inspired by my landlord’s consideration and kindness to people he barely knew. Without expecting any reward, he works beyond his duty for the good of others.
That day, and on subsequent days, I was inspired to get off my duff, borrow a shovel, and dive into the winter. After I’d shoveled out three cars belonging to complete strangers, I paused and thought to myself, “Gee, the tenants will probably think the landlord did this.”
My next thought was, “Great!”
(Editor’s Note: Douglas notes he’s “an English teacher looking for work.” His home page is http://homepage.mac.com/beagley/)
Available in The Best of HeroicStories, Volume 2.