Albert loves to work. I see that every morning as I cross the little park in front of our New York apartment and see him at work. He sweeps, he rakes, he picks up trash, he scrubs, he shines, packs up garbage, he cleans off the slide and the swings in the playground.
No one has ever made the park look so cared for. Everything sparkles. It’s as though it were his own backyard, and we are his special guests.
“Morning, Albert!” I holler.
“Morning, Rick!” he hollers back, looking up from the leaves he’s bagging.
“The park looks great today.”
I’m usually in a huge hurry, rushing to the subway. But the other day he wanted to show me something. I looked at my watch hesitantly and then thought, Rick, slow down. Make some time. After all, this was a little two-acre spot of trees, rocks, grass and sunshine in a busy city. I could stop and smell the roses.
He took me to the shed where he stores his equipment and took out a portfolio of drawings, lovely, bright, multi-colored sketches and prints. “You’re an artist,” I said. “Yes,” he said a little sheepishly. He showed me one called The Marshmallow Hill. “It’s a place of joy and happiness,” he explained.
He got into drawing answering a call from God. He’d lost a job and prayed what to do. God told him, “Draw.” And he did. It kept him focused on the right things while he was unemployed. Then he got the job with Parks and Recreation.
“You’re a praying man,” I said.
“I pray all the time.”
I guess I wasn’t surprised because Albert does his work as though it were a prayer, with his own God-given enthusiasm, passion and friendliness. An artist with a rake and a broom.
“Thanks,” I said, “for keeping this park so clean.” I left wondering if this were his own Marshmallow Hill. I’ve got a print of it in my briefcase, signed by the artist. “God bless you and your family,” he wrote on the back. Doubly blessed by Albert.