One day, the head of police came across a group of young men singing and dancing in the street. As he approached them, they fell quiet.
“What are you celebrating?” the chief asked.
One of them stepped forward and replied, “What are we celebrating! Look at the houses on this street! We have painted every one of them, and now it is a beautiful thing to see. We made this. And it makes us happy!”
The police chief knew their story. Almost two years ago, fourteen young criminals from two gangs were convicted of vandalism and injuring an old lady.
The judge sentenced them each to seven years in jail, with five years suspended if they painted every house in town.
At first, they would only fight, one gang against the other. But each day they were offered the opportunity to go out of the jail and paint. Pretty soon a couple of the men tired of the fighting, and went out to paint.
When they came back, they were sunburned, but laughing and telling stories about the homeowners they met, who had fed them a delicious lunch. Each day, a few more of the young men joined the painting program until all of them were going out together.
The men didn’t suddenly turn into saints, but they worked next to each other every day. In the process, one would tell a story of the hard life he had growing up. Then, a member of the other gang would tell a story of a greater hardship. At some point, they realized that they all shared a tough life as a kid. They understood each other.
As they painted, they would sing. After several weeks, every man knew at least a couple of the songs, and would join in. And they would synchronize their brush strokes according to the music. By the end of each day, they were exhausted but happy. Somewhere along the line they realized that they were no longer members of two separate gangs. Instead, they began to identify themselves as the Color Company.
After two years, they had painted six hundred houses. They looked back down the street and saw what they’d done. They began to sing together and to dance in the street. That is when the police chief found them.
“You know,” he told them, “when the judge finally lets you out, you won’t have any reason to sing and dance anymore. You won’t be forced to paint houses anymore. It’s really too bad.” He shook his head, turned and walked away.
The men were suddenly downcast. They hung their heads and began to walk to the sides of the street, where they sat on the curbs facing one another.
“We can’t let that happen,” one of them said. “We’re the Color Company now. Why can’t we be the Color Company when we’re free? We can keep on painting. We just have to figure out how to make money doing it!”
Soon, the chief of police and the judge received letters from the Color Company, signed by fourteen ambitious young men. They asked for the leaders’ support and recommendation, and that is what they received. Pretty soon the young men finished painting the houses of their town, and they were released. The continued as the Color Company, and traveled their whole region, painting houses in many towns.
After several years as the Color Company, individual members began to start their own businesses, which employed other wayward young men. The new employees were invited to join in the weekly meetings with the Color Company, and they became members of the organization.
This is based on a true story. But it has happened in places all over the globe. Small groups, when given a unifying task, have worked together to become successful leaders, and benefactors and defenders of the less fortunate. It is amazing what a few people working together can accomplish.
- Christopher, February 2019
- Christopher, February 2019