The Quiet Good

For years, my drive to work in the morning took me past a blight on the city's landscape. Heading south on Aurora, I would pass the infamous "Thunderbird Motel." For those who have spent almost any time in Seattle over the past few decades the mere mention of the Thunderbird Motel will immediately conjure up visions of hypodermic needles, stained mattresses and police cars. Passing the motel in the stark light of morning revealed every decrepit detail of decay with a harshness bordering on cruelty. This was a sore best left to the darkness of night.

Over a year ago, the city put us all out of our misery and shut the place down, boarded up the windows and fenced off the property - condemned it. Mercifully, months later, the big rigs rolled in and tore the place to the ground. All that was left was the parking lot. Even a barren lot was better than what had been.

Not too much later, I noticed, with great delight, that new construction began in its place. As the weeks passed by, a pleasant structure began to form. On a stretch of highway known for low-slung motels and businesses in converted, old houses, this new building even had some architectural creativeness. For a while it did appear as if the color scheme would be a rather dull grey. Yet even that took a turn for the good. The crew finished the building with a lively design of yellow, tan, and white squares. In contrast to the grime and grossness of the Thunderbird, this new building appeared bright and hopeful.

But I couldn't figure out what it was for. No sign went up during construction, or after. Occupants moved in. Still no sign of who they were, or what they were doing. However, considering what had been there before, I drove past every morning thankful for whatever it was.

Then, about three months ago, I found out.

Years ago, a friend of mine had a very well-paying job at one of the companies in Seattle that has an international profile. He is a fantastic accountant and was firmly established. But he hated the constant pressure put on him to use his skills to increase the company's profit. After an anxiety attack that manifested as a heart attack, doctor's cautioned him that the real thing might not be that far off. He quit his job soon after and thought long and hard about what he really wanted to do. He ended up working for a non-profit that built low-income housing around the state. Within a few years, he combined that work with his faith background and went to work for the Archdiocese of Seattle overseeing the building of all of their low-income housing. Over the holidays this year, he and I were having a beer and catching up on each other's stories.

I'm sure many of you have already made the connection by now. But, the building that replaced the infamous Thunderbird Motel was built by my friend. The building is now a safe, warm place of shelter for those having a tough go in life. It is a place where they are not given a key and left to their addictions and loneliness; but given a key and provided with services and a caring community. Quite a renewal for that plot of land on Aurora.

You may have noticed also that I haven't given my friend's name. I thought about it and decided I wouldn't. After finding out it was his project, the next time I drove past the building, what struck me was how good and decent and significant the renewal of that property was, but how quietly it had all happened. Rather than try to make a big deal out of that specific good work, I'm thinking maybe it is even more important to ponder how many good works we each pass by every day and don't notice. After this particular experience for me, I'm now thinking that it happens all the time. Yet, rather than feeling discouraged that the good isn't celebrated with a louder voice, it's perhaps even more encouraging to me to know that all around me, all the time, the Spirit is at work, quietly breathing life into the world. Lack of commotion, or promotion, isn't a sign of the lack of people doing good. It's simply a sign that those who are doing good work are often far more concerned about doing the work than making noise.