“No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.”

Despite the fact that I love using this line, I’m far more inspired by what has become my favorite bumper sticker:

“Practice random acts of kindness.”

People have done so much for me over the years, most of whom I never properly thanked, that I decided the best way to show my appreciation is to do what I can to help others.

No, I didn’t fly to Haiti after the earthquake or even fill sandbags in Nashville. I’m no Mother Teresa. I help guys load sheets of plywood into their trucks in the Home Depot parking lot, get a lady’s bag down out of the overhead compartment, lift a baby stroller off a curb, drop five dollars at a kid’s lemonade stand.

No big deal. Same sort of things you do, too.

Most of the time nothing ever comes of it. And most of the time I never have to use the line about good deeds not going unpunished.

My most memorable example involved a Gustav Stickley sideboard I went to see on a house call. It required a two-hour drive and two stops at gas stations for directions before I arrived at the Pine Grove Trailer Park. Pausing at the entrance, the best thing I could see about it was the name. The lead on the sideboard had come without a photo, just a brief description over the phone, a red decal and an address.

Naturally, in my mind I painted a rosy picture: original finish, original hardware, no veneer chips on the doors and an affordable price.

What I found, once the schoolbooks, magazines, Mountain Dew can and cat had been pushed aside, was anything but rosy: the plate rail had been cut off, the top was gouged, the doors were chipped and Patches had proven that, indeed, cat urine will dissolve shellac. To make matters worse, her asking price appeared to have come from a Christie’s auction catalog – then doubled.

Although her kids weren’t around, signs of them were everywhere. It had to have been a crowded household, as the couch was made up into a bed for one of them.

Needless to say, she was counting on the sale and I paid her price, knowing that even after several hours of restoration, I would still lose money on the deal.

Together we loaded it into the back of my van and, as I often do, I asked about any nearby antiques shops. She hadn’t been inside it, but gave me directions to one at the far edge of town. It wasn’t hard to find, but stepping through the door didn’t raise my expectations. What I saw was a lot of chipped plates, forties furniture, reproduction Coke signs and rusty tools.

But there, on a shelf between the Fiesta ware and a stack of National Geographics, was my reward for the day: a pair of perfect Roycroft candlesticks.

For ten dollars.

Today, that sideboard sits in the home of a friend of mine, but those candlesticks have always stayed with me, silent reminders of my little journey to the Pine Grove Trailer Court.

Until next Monday,

Have a great week!