‘Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.’ Dalai Lama
My angels must just wait for a blank spot in my schedule to show up so that they can fill it up with some thing I must do that I do not yet know I must do.
Yesterday I had a nice expanse of white space on my calendar and since we are in the midst of a move I had lots of things on my mental to do list. Before I even got a chance to plan, a got an unexpected call from a stonemason we had contracted with. We were going to hire him to create a rock fireplace in our new home but he was not yet scheduled to start the project. When his call came in he announced that he had another job cancel and could start our work ahead of schedule. He was waiting on our new front porch- ready to go- could I come and unlock the door ASAP. This was thrilling news- I am a big fireplace girl and love nothing more than sitting on a warm hearth during the cold winter months. The thought that our fireplace might actually be done before we move in was a happy surprise.
So I met him out at our new home and let him in… after a few minutes of chitchat he casually asked where our mantle was, because it needed to be put up prior to the rock. My pulse quickened a bit. Mantle? Uh-Oh. This whole fireplace thing had snuck up on me and we didn’t have a mantle. I inquired how much time I had to get one and was crestfallen to hear that the answer was ‘one day’. Yikes! Even my usual go to of Amazon prime with two day shipping was out of the question on this one. I spent the next few hours calling every fireplace related vendor in our local area. It did not take long to learn that no one carries in stock mantles, let alone one that would fit the large stone wall that will surround our fireplace.
I was determined to stay positive and continue on with my search. Now let me point out here that a conundrum like this has the easy ability to put me into what those who love me might call a ‘snit’ …. But on this day, for whatever reason, the force was with me and I was not snitty at all- just politely determined. My elevated demeanor paid off. One phone call led to another, and so on and so forth… as nice people all over town told me that they couldn’t help me but each gave me another name of someone they thought might be able to. After four hours of phone calls and driving around the bowels of the industrial back roads of the town where I live, one more very nice man who couldn’t help me, drew me a little map on the back of a receipt and advised me to ‘follow the map and drive all the way to the end of the alley… you’ll find a guy back there who can work magic with wood.’
Although I generally try to avoid alleys I was undeterred. I followed the map and found the alley and headed to the end. It sure didn’t seem like there was a business there- but there were heaps and heaps of wood everywhere so I surmised I must be at the right place. I walked into a giant old open-air warehouse, stepping gingerly over planks and old doors and all sorts of riff raff. I could hear someone working in the back. When my calls of ‘ hello’ were heard a man emerged from behind a pile of lumber and smiled an easy smile. He was young and bright eyed and from the get go he treated me like I was some kind of old friend. I liked him immediately.
Before I even began my plea, I laughed and told him to bear with me as I spoke- because my day of searching for a mantle had felt like travel to a foreign country where I did not speak the language. As I finished my desperate little monologue he grinned for a minute before he skipped forward toward a pile of lumber and said, ‘Well, if you need it by tomorrow, let’s do this!’
After hearing our fireplace dimensions he rifled around in a pile of wood for a moment and then pointed proudly to one beam that to me looked just like the hundreds of others lining the warehouse. Not so, he explained; this one had great character. I looked at it closely, but try as I might, all I could see was on old piece of wood. He called for a helper and together they lifted the beam and walked it across the warehouse to a work area. He grabbed a small can of something and started to brush it onto the wood. I was amazed. What was grey and bland a moment ago suddenly sprung to life. It did have character- and I immediately knew that this beam had done a whole lot of living before this. I knew in an instant that it would be the perfect mantle to our family home.
I have since learned that this bright-eyed man in the back alley has a thriving business creating beautiful things out of reclaimed wood. People wait months for completion- yet he delivered a gorgeous custom mantle to us in less than 24 hours. Why? There is no other reason that I can think of other than simple kindness.
Although the accelerated need for this mantle sent me scurrying, I am ever grateful for the experience. If I had time to lollygag around getting a mantle, I likely would have ordered a pre-made something off of a website. It would have been created en masse in a factory probably several countries away, and would have been delivered onto our doorstep via fed ex.
Instead, today I will head back into the bowels of that industrial area and I will again point my little car down that alley. When I leave I will have in my possession a gorgeous 150 year old wood beam that came into being before saw mills even existed. It came from a barn in Pennsylvania and every ding and dent on it was earned honestly. Its warps and gnarls were not created by an automated machine, but instead by the stories it has known in this world… and it was not processed by a factory worker, but instead resurrected and coaxed into being by the artful hand of someone who was willing and kind… for no other reason than he chose to be…
Even though our fireplace is yet to be completed I can feel its warmth already.