Boy Mows Lawns for Money to Help School Janitor Pay Off Mortgage and Retire — Story of the Day

A rowdy teenager caused trouble for the school janitor and felt guilty. He learned about the man’s life and decided to do something remarkable for him, and only then did he realize something essential.

“Jeez!” Holden spat when he saw the mess he made on the floor. He and his friend were only going to play a prank on another student and paint his locker. However, he dropped the paint can in the middle of the basketball court, which would certainly be noticeable.

“Come on, Holden! Let’s go! Let’s go!” his friend, Andrew, yelled, and they both dropped everything and ran away.

They weren’t bad kids, but they were undoubtedly rowdy and rebellious, skipping classes all the time and trying to prank others. However, they weren’t bullies and didn’t have any malicious intent. Holden just hated school and wanted anarchy like many teenagers did at that age.

“Wow. That’s terrible,” the teenager commented before widening his eyes. “Sorry. That was rude.”

Fortunately, no one discovered what they had done, but Holden passed by the basketball court later and saw the old school janitor cleaning things up and heard the screams of the principal, Mr. Figgins.

“We have the prep rally tomorrow, and scouts from all over the country are coming! This needs to come out immediately!” the principal yelled at the poor old man, who hung his head and tried to clean the mess. However, the paint was oil-based, and it was an arduous task.

“Yes, Mr. Figgins. I’ll make sure it’s ready for tomorrow,” the janitor said and kept scrubbing. The principal threw his arms around some more, yelled some demands, and walked off in a huff.

Holden felt terrible, watching the old man on his knees trying to fix his mistake, so he did something completely uncharacteristic. He walked into the court, grabbed a rag, kneeled, and started cleaning with the janitor.

The old man looked at him for a second. “I guess you did this, right?” he commented and kept scrubbing.

“Sir, please. I’m so sorry. It was a mistake. I didn’t know you would get in trouble for it,” Holden apologized sincerely and continued moving the rag up and down. “Please don’t tell the principal. My mom would kill me.”

The old man sighed and shrugged. “I won’t tell anyone, but you have to help me until this floor is back to normal,” he negotiated, and Holden nodded rapidly.

While they worked, they talked. The janitor’s name was Fred. At first, their conversation was about basketball and football, as the school has some of the best teams in the state. But then, Holden asked the old man why he was working at his age. Based on the wrinkles on his face and his frail arms, he had to be way over 60.

Well, I need to pay a mortgage, kid,” Fred responded with pursed lips. “And I’m 76.”

“You haven’t paid your mortgage still. Wow. That means I can never dream of having a house of my own,” Holden commented.

“Well, things are hard now, kid. But actually, I never wanted to own a house. I rented most of my life. I bought that house for my daughter. She needed her own place, and I wanted to give her something,” Fred revealed, wiping the sweat from his forehead. “I put a down payment for her and helped her with the mortgage for years. But then, she died in a car accident, and it was all on me.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Holden muttered, and they stayed quiet for a while. “Why don’t you sell the house now?”

“Where would I live, kid? With rent these days, I would be homeless. And I have to keep working to eat,” the janitor continued. He wasn’t bitter or sad. He was just realistic.

“But you might not ever retire!” the teenager added.

That’s true. I just hope I can pay the mortgage before I die,” he continued.

“How much is it?” Holden asked boldly.

“Well, I believe it’s a little under $30,000.”

“Wow. That’s terrible,” the teenager commented before widening his eyes. “Sorry. That was rude.”

But Fred laughed. “Let’s just work, kid.”

They finally removed all traces of the paint, but they both went home late that night… and Holden couldn’t sleep. He wanted to do something nice for the old man who hadn’t gotten him in trouble.

A few days later, he confessed what he had done to his mother and told her everything; then, he asked her how they could raise money for the old janitor. Maybe, if they paid his mortgage, Fred could retire.

His mother said that he could mow lawns around the neighborhood. It was mowing season, and tons of people were looking for help. So, Holden did so and surprisingly got a ton of clients. He grabbed his dad’s lawnmower and worked hard.

But after a few days, he realized the task was almost impossible. He would have to work for years, just like Fred, to raise the money, so he talked to his neighbors whose kids also went to the school. He took a picture of Fred from the school’s website and posted it online, telling his story, and finally decided to open a crowdfunding link for the janitor.

To his shock, the money started coming in, and $30,000 were raised in just a week.

After that, Holden and his mother talked to the school principal about having a special ceremony to honor Fred and surprise him. The teenager also had to come clean to the principal about the paint on the basketball court. Finally, Mr. Figgins agreed.

The whole school heard the story, and they all gathered at the basketball court and cheered when Fred came in. The old janitor had no idea what was going on as he didn’t have social media. But Holden presented him with the money, and many in the crowd cried as the two of them hugged. Fred officially retired that week.

Holden later learned that Fred had a granddaughter, Erin, who was only a few years younger than him, and the janitor wanted to pay off the house so she could have it when he was gone. She and Holden became great friends as he started visiting the old man after school and helping out.

He stopped hanging out with Andrew and started taking his classes seriously. The entire experience taught him that you had to work hard for everything.

His rebellious ways wholly disappeared, and he actually graduated at the top of his class a few years later. The entire school staff was shocked and pleased by his 180º turn, as it was something teachers rarely ever saw. And it was all due to Fred and that afternoon spent cleaning some paint off the floor.

What can we learn from this story?

You must apologize and do your best to atone for your errors. Holden got the old janitor in trouble, but he readily apologized and tried to make things better.
It only takes one experience or person to change someone’s perspective on life. After meeting Fred, Holden changed for good, as he learned that life was hard and only those who worked hard and honestly could live happily.

Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.
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