Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hot tamales

Recently, we spent a bit of money on some much needed home repairs, ahem, I mean, contributed to the economic recovery (it just sounds so much better to think of it that way).  Not exactly what we wanted to do right before the holiday$$$, but felt it was important enough to spend the money now instead of letting it go any longer and end up spending more down the road.  Plus, there's an added bonus of peace of mind knowing that my house won't completely crumble and fall apart.  Well, it wasn't actually that bad, but it kind of felt like it.

Not only does our house look and function better, but I also got the added pleasure of meeting Robert, the Stucco Guy Extraordinaire.  This man is one of the nicest, most humble, most grateful, most proud of his craftsmanship, and genuine person I've ever met.  I'm not exaggerating when I say this.  You just don't see this sort of professionalism, worth ethic, and sincerity too often anymore.  How truly refreshing.

I didn't meet Robert right away.  My wonderful husband did all of the arrangements and interactions while I was down for the count in bed with an awful cold virus.  It wasn't until the second to last day that he was working at our home that met him.  I decided to bake some homemade chocolate chip cookies as a sort of 'thank you' to the hardworking crew, and also as an excuse to introduce myself.  I commented on his excellent work and then casually asked him how business was in the bad economy.  Turns out, this simple question is how I learned about his true character.

He told me that last year was very very bad and he was only saved by a home equity line of credit, so this year is relatively better in comparison.  He also said that eight out of ten people he knows in similar businesses did lose everything - their businesses, their big homes, cars, boats, time shares, fancy fancy etc., etc.  Why them and not him?  You see, he didn't upgrade to a huge (overpriced) house and buy expensive toys and overextend when times were good.  He kept his modest house and slowly fixed it up, one upgrade at a time (kept in line by a smart wife of thirty years making sure he finished every project he started).  He also did not cut costs by sacrificing his high standards and worth ethic, which helped him continue to get referrals and clients.

We talked for a while about our positive hopes for the economy and what's truly important in life, like family, friends, and gratitude and the more I talked to him the more I saw a true gem of a man.  He just gets it in the way that I wish more people did.  He believes that what goes around comes around, and when you put out good you get back good in return, so always do good.  Karma.  He doesn't need all of that material stuff to make him happy because he already has what he needs.  Oh man, did I just want to hug him and adopt him as an uncle so he'd stay in my life forever.

When his work is done, we say our good-bye's and thank you's and I feel lucky for knowing him.  I wish all my friends and family needed stucco work done, too, so we could give him tons and tons of business.  He more than deserves it.

The next morning at a 7am, I hear a knock at my front door.  My first thought it that it's a neighbor coming by to tell us something we didn't want to hear, like the time we heard "hi, do you know you have tons of bees flying out of a hole in your side wall?".  That was fun.  So, after hand-combing my wild curly bedhead, I cautiously open the door. Who do I see?  It's Robert, the Stucco Guy!  He says good-morning and apologizes for the early house call.  He proudly hands me a heavy and surprisingly warm large brown paper bag filled with a dozen just-cooked hot steamy tamales.  My caution evaporates into big happy smiles.

You see, one day my husband and Robert got to talking about tamales and the best places around Los Angeles to get authentic ones.  So, Robert figured he would get up extra early (when the tamales are best) and bring some to us from his favorite local place since he knows how much we like them.

Wow, right?

The delicious tamales were devoured quickly in our tamale loving home.  Yummy!  They were especially wonderful, not just because of the restaurant, but because they were brought to us with such care and kindness.  It's like Robert puts his whole self into everything he does, from the meticulous stucco work and clean-up, to openly discussing his sincere views on life, and sharing his favorite tamales.  I totally respect living life in that kind of authentic way, and I aspire to be more like that.  I think I do for the most part, but there's definitely room for improvement.  It's just such a rich and peaceful way to live.

This year was more than full of sad events, difficult challenges, and uncomfortable changes, both in my life and others I know, bringing plenty of bittersweet reminders of how fragile and hard life can be.  And that's why I soooooo appreciate having such a lovely and welcome moment and reminder of gratitude for a good reason from a really good guy.  This time, I didn't need a funeral or illness to remind of my blessings.  I got a chocolate chip cookie induced hot tamale happy give-give gift just because we both decided to do some good for each other.

I believe that people (who often seem like angels) come into our lives, even if it's for a brief time, to remind us of what is most important, and "Uncle" Robert is definitely one of them for me.