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Life Lessons From My Plumber

Susan Shor

Posted on July 12, 2019 10:37

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Yesterday, I learned my plumber is an amazing man because I listened with open ears.

In this world where we shy away from people who are “different” or where we surround ourselves with those who look, think, and/or act like us, I often find myself learning and growing because of my blabbermouth. Well, maybe it’s my curiosity or my inherent journalistic nature, but I talk to everybody--and I’m the one who wins. 
 
Last night, I noticed water coming through my bathroom ceiling. Fun. I’m not going to say that the emergency fee was worth the conversation, I much rather would have been chilling at 10 p.m., but I was amazed at the journey the plumber has been on and if I had judged him for his accent, his profession, his looks, or even when he first told me that he was in his early 30s and had six (!) children, I never would have learned what a determined and intelligent man he is. 
 
Before you decide that he is a shining example of the kinds of immigrants “we want here,” know that he was born in Chicago and has Puerto Rican heritage, which makes him completely American and completely other. He speaks English, Spanish, and a little Polish from his days in construction. He is teaching his younger brother his trade and has worked his way up to full apprentice from no skills at all five years ago. He works morning and evening and all the hours in-between because he knows what it is like to have nothing. 
 
This man, while playing detective to find a leak in my toilet and explaining clearly what he was doing, told me that he, his wife, and one of his babies had been homeless and couch-surfing for a year and a half. He had sent the rest of his brood to stay with relatives in Colorado. He worked and worked and finally had enough for a one-bedroom apartment. He brought his children back. They moved to a two-bedroom and then a three. Now, with children ranging from 9 to 16, they are looking for a house. The oldest has been approached by Columbia and Harvard. 
 
But that’s not all. He spoke of getting tired of his own anger and, with his wife’s urging, taking anger management classes and truly learning how to “find the Zen,” as he said. He learned that anger comes from within and that most of what people throw at you is not really about you, but about them. He has learned to take a step back. This, he said, has helped him not only in his relationships, but also in his work. He doesn’t get frustrated when water seems mysteriously to be coming from nowhere. 

This is a man I am glad I met and even gladder that my nature allowed me to truly listen to him. I am not always able to be so open-minded and open–hearted, but I am trying. Telling this story is one of my ways of trying to help us all “find the Zen.” 

Susan Shor

Posted on July 12, 2019 10:37

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