From Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work

The Arc Angels

It is better to give and receive.

Bernard Gunther

Several years ago, Iris Arc Crystal, a company I cofounded with Francesca Patruno, experienced a lull in business. We had recently hired several new employees and hoped that the slowdown was only temporary. However, in the meantime, we had work enough for only four days of the week. So, instead of letting 20 percent of our work force go or sending them home one day per week, we decided that we would keep everyone on the payroll for the entire week, working from Monday through Thursday, and taking Fridays to do service projects in our hometown of Santa Barbara.

I remember phoning several service agencies to find out what was needed in the community. We divided up into three groups and showed up where the agencies said they most needed us. The first week, the group I was involved with went to a very old Ukrainian gentleman’s home to do a total cleanup of his house and garden. When we arrived, an elderly woman greeted us at the door. We thought she was the wife, but it turned out she was the daughter. She was 75, and her father was 97! She told us what we needed to do, and we proceeded to clean the house from floor to ceiling and clean up the yard as well. It is amazing how much work a group can get done when everyone is working together and being of service to someone who really needs the help. That gentleman’s house went from dirt and dinginess to a sparkling clean palace by the time we finished at the end of the day.

The thing I most remember about that day, however, was not the great cleaning job that we did, but something altogether different. When we first walked into the house, I noticed the wonderful pen-and-ink drawings that adorned the walls in all the rooms of the house. I asked the daughter who had done them. She said that her father had, and that he hadn’t taken up art until he was 80 years old! I was dumbfounded; these drawings were works of art that could have easily been hanging in a museum. At the time, I was in my early 30s and wanted to do something that would utilize my creative and artistic capabilities more than being the president of a gift-ware company would allow. I had been feeling that it would be too difficult to make a change at this “advanced” stage of my life. Boy, did my limited belief system get expanded that afternoon!

We continued to do service projects around town for several more weeks, including completely painting someone’s home and setting up a large bleacher for a horseback riding academy for physically challenged children. We had a lot of fun and did a lot of good. Somehow we ended up with the nickname The Arc Angels. In addition to the good feelings that came from helping out others, the good feelings we shared as employees of a company that cared for both its employees and the community went a long way toward creating a work atmosphere that was a joy to be part of.

Jonathan Wygant

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