It was Sunday afternoon. I was driving home down one of Stamford, Connecticut’s homes when I saw an elderly manner working with a sledge hammer next to him, a door step with the floor demolished and a heap of rubble next to him. He had a great job to do and was all on his own. A ladder protruded from the whole he had shattered, broken bricks, a pick axe and ten buckets of debris surrounded him. This was great-grandfather Alex Orr. Father of six children, eight grandchildren and one great-grand child. Mr. Alex Orr, an American of Jamaican-descent, married fifty-seven years and still working hard labor as a mason…a brick-layer…a man comfortable wielding a sledge hammer, clearing rubble and making new foundations.
All I could do was pull my car over step out and get his story. I told him that I like to honor servant leaders. In the most sincere tone I could muster, I asked him for his story. My heart was grabbed and a flurry of life lessons came into clarity for me on the meaning of grit, determination, brawn, passion, love, endurance, resoluteness and all out spirit. Mr. Orr embodied these. He told me a bit of his story and allowed me to take his picture.
On my way home I reflected on the circumstances of my life and what this man was doing on a Sunday afternoon by himself. It was humbling to see a great-grandfather like Mr. Alex Orr working as he was with his bare hands at a time in his life when he could be at his home enjoying his family or relaxing in some way. No, Mr. Orr was working hard to fix the doorstep of some home not his. He was deep in the middle of it for what would probably amount to small pay.
How has God blessed this man beyond the dollar bills afforded to him for his masonry work?
I consider the value of time. Is time money, or is our time more valuable than money? I consider his dedication to his family and in being a builder in the community. I consider his age, his fifty-seven years of marriage and his over forty years as an American straight from Jamaica. He was not grumpy, nor solemn. Mr. Orr was calm and focused, humble and outgoing. Simple and straightforward. A simple human being doing his work. Is his reward the money he gets paid for his hard labor, or does his reward show in his built-character, his great-grandfatherhood and his long-lasting marriage? Mr. Orr’s ability to get up each morning year after year, decade after decade to do his work placed stock in his family’s backbone, raising it up stronger than any brick he ever placed and cemented. His breaking actual concrete was nothing compared to the mark he has created for his children on what it means to work hard, be dedicated and serve others, even if it be in silence without recognition.
It is people like Mr. Alex Orr that grab a hold of my heart, shake it in a good way and place me back on my feet letting me know that we all have our burdens and it is how we carry them and how we respond to what life places before us that makes the difference in our lives.