In the early 1920’s an ambitious young boy walked up to the manor house of a sprawling wheat farm and asked the lady of the house for a job.
The farmer’s wife liked the looks of the lanky lad holding his wool plaid cap in his hand as he talked. She told him that he could begin to work in a few weeks at the beginning of the busy season at the farm. To seal the bargain, the kindly woman handed the boy three shillings and told him she would see him soon.
Weeks passed but the boy didn’t show up for work as promised and the farmer’s wife never saw him again.
Almost 60 years later, an elderly man stopped by that same farmhouse. The visitor was the same youthful lad who had inquired about a job but never returned so many years before.
Talking to the new owner the old man learned that the farm now belonged to him and it was actually his late grandmother the young boy had spoken to so many years ago.
The old visitor explained how he had taken the money but was unable to return because his father had moved the family from their home in northern England far away to the lower Midlands.
He then went on to say that for almost 60 years, the woman who had been so kind and given him those three shillings had hounded his conscience and he wanted to return the money saying: “It’s never too late to right a wrong.”
That repentant old man who returned the money after so many years was my grandfather, and I learned that tale about him at his funeral when his best friend delivered the eulogy.
Frankly, when I first heard the story about my grandfather, Ernest “Ernie” Stacey, it didn’t surprise me. Becoming a master bricklayer, he built houses and churches all over Leicester, England where he lived most of his life.
To say I had out-and-out admiration for him would be a titanic understatement and the tale about the three shillings for work he didn’t do only magnified the feelings I had for him.
I can still recall watching him speedily scale a 16-foot ladder with a mortar bucket in one hand and a half dozen or more bricks stacked upon his head with nothing more than a thin leather cap between the two.
“You have to climb the ladder with your head and not worry about looking at your feet,” he once told me making it seem as simple as if he was taking his afternoon tea.
Grandpa Ernie often said the real secret to laying brick was to carefully examine the bricks closely by turning them to make certain that each brick was the best fit for where you wanted it to be placed. It may take longer, he would say, but it gives you a better picture of what it will look like when it’s finished.
I often think about my kind-hearted grandfather and reflect on how much better our society would be if everyone could be just as fair and honest and focus on doing the right thing — no matter how long it takes.