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(Pop on Monday) Part 1: “Sometimes It Pays to Be Generous,” by Erwin A. Thompson

This is the first of a two-part article by my father Erwin A. Thompson on the theme of generosity. Read Part 2 of "Sometimes It Pays to Be Generous" on Riehlife. --Janet

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Sometimes it pays to be generous. (And as a personal reward, it is a pleasant way to live)

I have often seemed to be in a position of being where something that I could do would help some of my fellow humans.

The Good Book advises us to cast our bread upon the waters and it shall be returned to us. Not exactly a practical suggestion, but applying it to the opportunities that we are offered in our lives it is a very comfortable philosophy. And in many cases, it has actually been a practical one for me.

As we worked, doing our job for the gas company, we were often confronted with situations which could either be funny or aggravating, whichever way a person might choose to view them.

One shining example of this circumstance was the Bland Brothers. Sewer contractors were a fact of life to us at the gas company. They came and went. Some were careful and courteous, finding out where our lines and the water lines were located before they started. Others were very self centered, digging where they needed to dig to install their sewer and pretending that there was nothing in that particular area of earth to interfere. Our gas lines suffered.

Enter the Bland Brothers, fresh from Calhoun County. They were pleasant people, with their minds strictly on their job at hand. They tore up three gas service lines, the first day. Just the way that our work unraveled, I inherited the job of repairing all three of them.

Which I did. I tried to educate them about the hazards of city excavations. As it was, the damage simply amounted to repairing or replacing the damaged lines. The possibilities existed, however, of serious injury, massive property damage, or even death with some bad luck and/or bad handling.

I tried to really educate them to the different conditions from the ones that they were used to. It could have been a contentious situation, depending on the personalities of the people involved.

Fortunately we were able to communicate in a civilized manner, and it worked. I guess I was a good teacher, and certainly they were good students. They got the "feel" of putting their installations in between the existing lines without damaging those already in use.

This would have been good results and pay for the time, energy and patience I had given them, but the real pay off of their feelings came to light one totally miserable, rainy, cold day.

The background: Earlier that year, the sewer contractor had installed a sewer in a very wet area. To ensure the safety of the tile crew they had dug the ditch about three times as wide at the top. This was good for them, but surely bad for the gas lines.

The obvious, predictable result was that when the dirt settled, it took the gas lines along with it. Logically, this had to happen when it rained or snowed.

On a cold, miserable winter day, with rain falling enough to make things thoroughly miserable, we got a leak call for that area. Knowing the area, we almost knew what was the trouble. But not a simple case, necessarily. Could be the service line pulled out of the compression coupling at the tap, or broken at a coupling out under the street .

My foreman asked if I wanted a backhoe. I declined, as at that time our backhoes did not have a closed cab. The operator would have been thoroughly miserable by the time they got to the job, let alone whatever it took to actually find the leak and do the digging work. So. Just as we pulled up at where we figured the trouble was, here comes one of the Bland Boys with his backhoe. He was laughing.

"Where do you want the hole dug?" he asked me. Pay day.

See Part 2: "Sometimes it pays to be generous," tomorrow on Riehlife under our "Family Matters" category.

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