Lessons on Painting at Work

Author’s Note:  This was a Facebook note that I wrote while going through a mid-career crisis.  I had applied (and was approved) for separation; but following a lack of preparation and an economic downturn, I pulled my paperwork and stayed Active Duty.  I had one of the best Squadron Commanders of my career replaced with one of the worst of my career.  The lessons learned in two months about toxic leadership made me really contemplate what is good and bad leadership.  That story will be shared at a later date.  On a side note… the individual from this story has completed their degrees and is doing outstanding.


This week at work I spent my time moving people’s offices and shifting around the layout of the command section.  Most of my time was dedicated to helping one of our civilians move all of their things into a new office that they were not very excited to move into.  The new office was 1/3 the size of the old one and was in a geographic location that they did not desire (next to the Commander’s Office). 

Many people would say this individual is a little rough around the edges and can be unpleasant sometimes.  Over the past few weeks from sitting across the hall from them, I used humor to break down walls and get them to open up.  I’ve learned yet again we all have our own stories and move along on our own journey of struggle, redemption, and hope.  We all are people and have our own story to share even if we are in a rut.  Sometimes we are so overwhelmed with so much in our lives that we don’t have time to take care of ourselves.

As we are moving things into their new office, I look at the individual and say.  “You want to paint the walls in here?  Want to make this place yours?”  They look around the room and the facial expressions change quickly to a warm smile.  “Sure but we don’t have time to paint.”  I say, “Sure we do.  Let’s pick out colors and I’ll do it on Friday.  I’ll come to work in civilian clothes and we will get this office up to what you want it to be.”

I show up Friday morning in their new office as they are working on some bureaucratic paperwork that could wait a while and there is a gallon of paint, a drop cloth, and painting supplies.  They had a huge smile on their face and was very excited at the future look.  So in my work jeans and tshirt, we start moving furniture and then I start prepping the battlespace for painting.  I paint, move more furniture, and spend 7 hours decluttering by creating a calming workplace for them to sit and relax.  The final product was a beautiful Japanese themed office which exudes a calming/focused workspace.

While I was painting, one of the E-8’s (Senior Master Sergeant) stops by and says “Wow, this painting is coming along.  Wait…  Major you’re painting this?”  I reply, “Yeah, trying to help out some since I have some more time these days.”

As I go back to painting it reminded me of a Bible verse when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples (John 13):

12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

I’ve always believed that we should help our neighbors when they are presented with challenges.  Of course, the help differs from situation to situation, but that help, no matter the size can have huge impacts on that individual.  No matter your position in the world, pushing up your sleeves and doing what needs to be done to help another person is what is just and right.  Until that E-8 said what she did, it didn’t dawn on me that the individual whom I was helping was even more energized that a Major (a rank they had seen over and over in their military and civilian time) take a day out of their non-busy work schedule and help them with setup and make better a bad situation.

If you could see the smiles on their face, smiles the entire time.  Amazing.  Inspiring.



Author’s Post-Note:  It is very interesting to see how my writing style has changed through the years.


For 18.5 years, the United States Air Force has had the true pleasure and honor of his service.  Nuclear war is not so complicated, he would tell you.  “Things go boom.”