When the old man opened his front door, he couldn’t believe how many strangers were on his property. Everywhere he looked were people he didn’t know, but they looked at him and smiled with warmth and understanding. Leonard tried to find Josh and figure out what was going on.
When the two men met on the front lawn, Leonard also saw the news vans parked on the road. For years, his community had forgotten about him. Who were all these people and what did they want with his house? The old man was overwhelmed, but he couldn’t tell if it was gratitude or frustration as he waited for Josh to explain his actions.
Union pacific railroad track inspector Josh Saigenik was having a normal day at work. He was in a suburb checking equipment and his mind was busy thinking ahead to his weekend and plans with friends after working.
It was strange being in a residential area and Josh’s ears perked up when he heard two teenage boys chatting. Josh had been raised to be polite and couldn’t believe how loud the kids were shouting and the words they were using! He needed to figure out what they were talking about, but nothing could have prepared him for what he witnessed.
He looked around and realized the boys were further down the street. He couldn’t believe how loud they were talking or their lack of regard for anyone to overhear their conversation. Even though they were on the other side of a fence, Josh could hear them clearly.
Josh’s brow creased. If he could hear what they were saying, what about the person they were rudely discussing. Josh walked over to the two young boys prepared to teach them a lesson. Instead, he started a journey with a new friend he never expected to leave a lasting impact.
Josh couldn’t help but overhear the teenage boy’s rude conversation. As he got closer he became more shocked at the adjectives the boys were using. Josh heard, “old and run down” in between the boy’s laughter.
As he got closer he began to connect the dots about what the boys were talking about. He stared at the house they were pointing at and noticed the peeling paint and overgrown lawn. One thing in particular held Josh’s attention in the window.
The teens continued talking about how they couldn’t understand why this building was still standing. They hoped one day it would be torn down and joked about painting graffiti on the structure to make it better.
When Josh got close, the boys realized they might be in trouble and ran quickly down the street. Josh was still wearing his construction outfit and looked intimidating. He couldn’t just turn away and forget what he heard. Josh began to walk up to the front door and wondered if anyone would answer.
Josh knew the boys didn’t mean any harm, but he couldn’t stop staring at the house. When he had been standing in front of it, he swore he saw the blinds move. He wondered how anyone could live in a house that looked like it was crumbling apart.
Josh walked up the front lawn and noticed the overgrown weeds, and forgotten objects. He saw the paint peeling on the house and the broken window panels. If someone was living in this house, they needed Josh’s help!
Josh could tell that no one had done any maintenance on the property in years and he was intrigued. Could someone still be living there? Josh knew he had seen the blinds swish open, but who was standing there watching him?
This house didn’t look like it was safe for a human being to live here. The roof looked like it might collapse on anyone that slept underneath it. It was time to take a deep breath and see who was the owner of this house, and why had they let this house deteriorate.
Josh walked towards the front doors and decided to knock. As he knocked once, more paint chips fell from the old paint and splintered wood. He knocked once and didn’t hear anything. Josh had an unexplainable feeling that someone did live in this house and knocked again.
As he waited, Josh heard quiet shuffling behind the door. It was someone walking very slowly towards the door but finally, the handle began to turn. At a snail’s pace, an old man opened the door and stared at Josh.
When the old man first opened the door he was annoyed. He didn’t like surprises and was used to being left alone. When he spoke to Josh he was gruff. He saw Josh’s uniform and assumed he was from the construction company pressuring him to leave his house.
The company had been dropping by periodically trying to pressure the old man to sell his house and let them buy the lawn. He was firm that he didn’t want to leave his house. He was about to close the door, but Josh put a hand out to stop him. Josh couldn’t describe this feeling, but he had to find out who this old man was and his life story.
Josh began to explain to the old man he wasn’t from the construction company and wasn’t trying to force the old man out of his house. He introduced himself and said he was genuinely curious how long the open man had lived here.
The old man’s face immediately softened, and he began to relax. He explained he had been scared to open the door because lately the construction company was coming around more frequently to try and convince the old man to leave his house. It had been a long time since he had a kind visitor.
Josh found out the old man’s name was Leonard Bullock, and he was 75 years old. When he realized Josh meant no harm he proceeded to invite him inside. Josh was hesitant to step inside the house but something about Leonard’s face made him choose to do it.
As he crossed the threshold, Josh realized two very important details. Leonard had revealed an important detail to Josh, but was it a secret Josh was prepared to keep? After he walked further into Leonard’s home, he didn’t have a choice.
He couldn’t help but be curious about the old man and his determination to stay in the house. Josh learned that years ago, Leonard had a good job and a loving wife. He had grown up in this town and looked forward to spending his retirement with his wife making new memories.
Leonard’s goals were the same ones that Josh had. He could understand searching for a soul mate and making memories together. Josh looked around excited to meet Leonards wife, and then felt his heart break as Leonard continued his tale.
Leonard and his wife had never been able to have children, but they loved each other very much and looked forward to traveling after Leonard retired. Unfortunately in a cruel twist of fate, shortly after Leonard retired his wife became ill.
While Leonard spent every minute at the hospital with her, he was still unprepared for the day she died. Leonard’s wife passed away suddenly, leaving the man completely alone with no family or friends. Josh was speechless but didn’t want to stop Leonard and continued listening.
When Leonard’s wife died, it was the first time he had been alone in years. He forgot how to make friends and was shy. The couple had spent all their savings on trying to find a cure or treatment. Leonard knew the house was falling apart but he didn’t know where to begin to fix it.
The only thing he had left was this house which he owned. It upset him every day that the house looked terrible but he didn’t have the strength or money to stay on top of repairs. As Josh listened, his heart swelled for the poor man that was facing an uncertain future. Josh made up his mind he would help Leonard and make him comfortable for the rest of his years.
Josh was determined to help Leonard and make the rest of his life comfortable in his home. He left their first meeting and went home. For the rest of the night, he wrote down ideas until he came up with a brilliant plan.
Josh wanted to fix the house himself, but he knew he didn’t have the time or money to do it alone. He had a friend that worked at Tum Lum Lumber and secured a donation but he needed manpower. He decided to reach out on social media and pray for kind souls to respond.
Josh never used his social media account but the more he thought about Leonard, the more in his gut he knew he had to help. As he wrote the post he thought maybe five of his friends would respond and lend a hand.
The post was simple and to the point. Josh said how he had met his friend Leonard after hearing the teenage boys talk about “burning down his house”. He appealed to the community that together they could help Leonard be comfortable in his own home. He would be there on Saturday, but would anyone else show up?
Josh had only left a couple of days for people to respond and he worried that his plan was too unorganized. He didn’t want to make promises to Leonard he couldn’t keep and committed to doing at least minor repairs. On Friday, Josh was a ball of nerves waiting to leave work. He had to go pick up paint and tools for Leonards’s house tomorrow.
As he went from store to store getting supplies he once again sent up a silent wish. If at least five people showed up Josh could make an impact on the damage to Leonard’s house. He had no idea on Saturday the volunteers that would show up would change Leonards’s life forever.
As Josh left his house, he expected one or two people might make time for his project. He had received a couple of comments on his post and private messages from friends who thought he was doing something cool. As he pulled onto Leonard’s street, he noticed that he couldn’t find parking. The street was packed with cars.
Josh parked a block away and as he jogged to Leonard’s house he couldn’t believe what he was witnessing. Josh knows people have their own stress and concerns, and recognizes everyone is struggling to stay afloat. Was it possible that a group of people wanted to help Leonard? Was his community prepared to welcome him with open arms?
The response to the post was mind-blowing! People had shown up and driven in from out of state. Leonards yard and block were full of volunteers. As Josh began to look around, people realized he was the guy that organized the event.
Josh had volunteers from Texas and California that drove down to help! As the crowd looked at Josh, they all wanted to know one thing. Where should they start? Josh could barely catch his breath. He was too shocked to speak, and he wasn’t the only one having trouble breathing.
Leonard was standing on his porch, taking in the incredible sight that his new friend Josh had brought to him. When Josh told him about his original plan, he laughed and said the kid was too optimistic. Seeing all these strangers gathering to help Leonard, it was the first time he didn’t feel alone in years.
Josh nodded at Leonard and instantly felt motivated! Based on the support he had today, they were about to completely change Leonard’s life. Josh began organizing volunteers into tasks and took a break to give Leonard a hug. The old man could barely stand he was shaking from the excitement.
Josh had everyone working on separate tasks! He wanted Leonard to sit down but the old man wanted to be outside with everyone. Leonard had not felt this much kindness in years. It re-ignited his hope in neighbors and mankind after being alone for so many years.
When Josh had a chance to do a headcount he realized over 3 dozen people came to help paint and clean Leonards’s yard. They had almost 100 volunteers, and instead of doing the tasks alone, Josh took over the role of delegating the work and hanging out with Leonard. They were building a memory that would be one of Leonard’s favorite days.
Instead of just painting the house, volunteers were going above and beyond. Josh didn’t realize that some of the kind strangers that showed up as actual tradesmen in the community. They were fixing Leonard’s plumbing, cleaning the interior, and also doing landscaping.
The thrum of people busy fixing Leonard’s house didn’t take long to attract attention from neighbors and even the local news channel. There were two guests in particular that Josh did a double-take when he saw!
Josh looked up and saw two familiar faces standing on the sidewalk. He did a double-take when he realized it was the two teenage boys that Josh originally heard dismissing the old home. If these boys hadn’t spoken so loudly about the run-down house, Josh would have never met Leonard.
The young boys now stood on the sidewalk in awe of the support and shyly asked Josh if they could lend a hand. This was a great opportunity for the boys to give back to their community and think of the meaning behind their words, but did Josh trust them with a project so close to his heart?
Josh was smiling ear to ear and also noticed that Leonard could not stop thanking people with a big smile on his face. The event attracted a local news team and that night the whole town found out about Josh’s good deed.
When the reporters arrived, Josh got protective of his sweet friend and thought they were going to try and ask Leonard about moving. He didn’t want anyone to bully his new friend. Instead, the reporters wanted to share Josh’s kind actions in hopes of inspiring an even bigger change.
Josh and Leonard agreed to speak to the news crews. The team wanted to highlight a few things. They wanted the community to recognize that helping your neighbors is priceless, and also that there are several seniors who require help.
While Leonard was grateful for the community’s help there were many other members of the elderly community with no family that needed help. Anything from home maintenance to groceries or errands, it always feels good to lend a helping hand. When the anchor tried to steer the interview back to Josh, he almost walked off camera. There was one thing he couldn’t allow, no matter what.
Josh refused to accept any praise or the title of “local hero”. He had been raised to think about others and to make everyone feel safe. Josh looked into the cameras and said “I’m not a hero. I was raised to respect the people who came before me. To help others out who don’t have much. I only did what anyone should have done in my place, not just me.
He gestured to the full lawn behind him and said the real heroes are the people working. The ones who drove in from out of town and those that came to help a stranger they had never met. He encouraged everyone to find a different way to support their community and not turn their backs on their neighbors.
The volunteers went above and beyond and cooked for Leonard to stock his fridge, but they also started to do a buffet of foods donated for the volunteers to eat. After today, Leonard’s community wanted to make sure he knew he had friends to reach out to and was never alone.
When the volunteers packed up that day, Leonard’s house was completely different. It was almost unrecognizable. Josh stood back and stared around him and at the hard work from everyone’s contributions. He couldn’t stop smiling from ear to ear, but when he looked at Leonard he rushed to his side.
The old man had tears streaming down his face as he took in the fresh paint and the beautiful pots of flowers. He was so indebted to Josh who was just a stranger a few days ago. After living alone for so many years, Leonard had forgotten how good it felt to have friends and a community that cared about him.
While the first weekend had the biggest turnout, Josh has continued to host events through his neighborhood to help the elderly. He visits Leonard every week and trusts his wisdom and advice for anything Josh brings up. The most unlikely duo will remain the best of friends.