Today in feels: Why a community came together to repaint this house

For the past four years, whenever Union Pacific track inspector Josh Cyganik goes to work to maintain the railroad, he waves to a man who lives in a house with a crumbling exterior across from the tracks.

That man, Leonard Bullock, 75, is a retired forklift driver who lives with his wife, Dorothy, whom he’s been married to since 2000. Leonard retired from his job over 20 years ago in 1995, but even with his monthly stipend, he and his wife couldn’t afford to repaint their house on their own. But for four years, Josh didn’t know any of this. He just knew Leonard loves spending time on his front porch. “He sits on that front porch all day long,” Josh told Union Pacific Railroad. “I never talked to him. Not until I heard what those two kids said.”

Earlier this summer, Josh heard two teenagers talking about the state of Leonard’s house, saying that it should be burned down for being in such bad shape. Their words truly wounded Leonard, and, by extension, Josh. “I saw the look on Leonard’s face,” Josh told UPRR. “I could tell the comment bothered him. I don’t think any elderly person should have to endure what I heard from those two kids’ mouths.”

After a few days of thinking, Josh decided to take action. He turned to his railroad team to ask for help, and his friend Brian Christensen, manager of Tum-a-Lum lumber, donated paint for the cause.

Then, all that was left was Leonard’s permission. “After we had it all figured out, I went and asked Leonard if it would be all right if we painted his house,” Josh told UPRR. “He was ecstatic.”

So Josh took to Facebook on July 15 to ask his friends and family for some manpower to get the job done in a week. “. . . I’m asking if anyone that wants to help this Saturday to volunteer their time to help paint this gentleman’s house! I’m thinking 8 o’clock Saturday morning this weekend,” Josh wrote. “. . .Thanks everyone for your support!”

He ended up getting way more support than he could have expected. “My Facebook is private,” Josh told UPRR, “but the post blew up like wildfire.” Indeed: The post was shared more than 6,000 times.

That Saturday morning on July 18th, when Josh arrived, there were already 20 people waiting by Leonard’s house to lend a helping hand. People kept trickling in to grab a paintbrush and help out. By the end of the day, over 100 people had shown up. “It was just a good vibe,” Josh told UPRR. “Everybody was happy and excited.”

But people weren’t only helping out with manual labor. “We received a lot of additional donations from people who didn’t come but wanted to help,” Josh continued. “People were dropping off food and drinks all day long. Starbucks even donated six gallons of water and iced tea.”

Volunteers also bought new furniture for Leonard, and there’s talk of having a new roof installed. The house used to be white, blue, and turquoise, painted rather sporadically; now, it’s a beautiful uniform brown. And the difference is absolutely striking.

“Yeah, it was a random act of kindness, but to me it’s more about respect,” Josh told UPRR. “I was raised to respect the people who came before you, to help others out who don’t have much. Leonard can now sit on his front porch for the rest of his years while feeling good about his home.”

Even after all of the attention the story has received, Josh’s humility is amazing. “According to the media, I’m a hero,” Josh continued. “I’m not a hero; I just heard something that bothered me. Anyone would have done the same thing. Everyone has it in their heart to do things like this.”

As for Leonard and Dorothy? Yeah, they’re pretty darn thrilled. “My buddy told me that Leonard and Dorothy were still sitting on their porch in the dark, just grinning from ear to ear,” Josh told UPRR.

Yep. Hearts are bursting. What a wonderful story of kindness and respect. Thanks, Josh and team, for all of your hard work to make one couple happy — and congratulations on your revamped home, Dorothy and Leonard!

Images via Facebook

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