On Saturday afternoon, the lad and I stopped at a set of traffic lights in Sydney’s inner west. I was feeling a little glum from a frustrating week and resulting vodka-induced headache. I was indulging in bleak ‘everyone is against me, life is really hard’ thoughts, rather than enjoying a stress-free summer afternoon with my lovely man.
We watched as the renowned local windscreen washer dashed from car to car – as he always did – wearing a vibrant costume and offering a quick wash. Today he was dressed as Santa Claus – albeit a very tanned, thin, pirate-like Santa. The lad waved him over to our car. It was the second time in as many weeks that we had him de-grot the windscreen and handed over a fiver as thanks. As the washer speedily squeegeed the glass, I was struck by the wide grin that wrinkled his sun-spotted skin. He was genuinely happy, even ecstatic to be wiping our windscreen. He squinted as he scrubbed a stubborn spot, determined to remove it. This was one happy man. A man who, even on wild windy and rainy days, or in sweltering heat, stands in the middle of that busy Parramatta Road intersection to scrub windscreens. In every traffic light sequence, he is seemingly waved away 9 out of 10 times. I like being the one who nods.
When he was done, the lad wound down the window and offered the usual fiver. The washer bent down and beamed. ‘Thank you very much! Have I done your windscreen before?’ We said yes. The washer thrust a folded A4 photocopy at us and wished us a merry Christmas, before he whistled and walked away. As the lights turned green and we took off, I unfolded the piece of paper. It was a handmade Christmas card. It read, ‘Dear the driver, Thank you for your contributions this year. From Maurice, your window washer.’
I then noticed a small scribbling in the bottom right hand corner of the page. It was accompanied by a grainy photograph of a young girl. It said ‘Thank you – 30c from your donation goes to help this girl in Kenya. $38/month.’
I was floored. Here was a man who, I felt, was really up against it. He seemed to have so little and surely needed (and certainly deserved) every cent that he made. Yet he saw there were people elsewhere in the world with even less. And so he donated the equivalent of my monthly mobile phone bill to help them.
I had just spent an entire week living miserably while eating good food, living in a clean home, drinking fresh water, and wishing I had a different life. One simple, photocopied Christmas card changed all that. It snapped me out of my selfish self-talk. It reminded me that life is precious. That I should never wish for the things I don’t have. That a ‘bad week’ in my life might be another’s dream.
I used to donate regularly to World Vision and Child Fund. Until I re-did my budget and decided I couldn’t afford it (because it would mean cutting down my phone usage or getting fewer manicures). That Christmas card spurred me to take up donating again. And stick with it.
That card made me see that it’s all too easy to frown. Live the life you’ve been given. Live it wholly, authentically and with purpose. Live to give to others. Live to count your blessings. Pass those blessings on to the person who battles wild weather to don a costume and collect a couple of dollars from cleaning a windscreen. Who then selflessly passes a portion of that hard-earned money to a little girl, on the other side of the world, who so desperately needs it.
You can find out more about Maurice the windscreen washer here.