American Success Stories/What Makes America Great: Paulo

Sunday Sept 3rd 7:54 am

This morning when I woke up I was going to write about the exchange between the Daily Caller and Stacy McCain concerning Saturday’s Event in Leominster (advance tickets still available here) so I grabbed my laptop and heading downstairs so as not to disturb my sleeping with I planted myself on he couch that Stacy would most likely be crashing on and looking out the window noticed a group of men getting siding up on the house next door.

One would think the early morning hammering would have woken me (or her) but over the last two months we have become accustomed to the sounds of Hammers generators, and saws as we’ve watched the house next door slowly and gradually be transformed.

The Author is this transformation is a 29-year-old young man named Paulo who came here as a teen from Brazil who has tirelessly been working to gut and redo the house inside and out since purchasing that foreclosed property to get it ready for a large family of tenants that he has lined up to put there.

Now I had hoped to buy that house for myself for my oldest son or co-sign with him (my finances might be thin these days but my credit score is close to 800)  who will be needing a new place soon but Paulo got there first.  Anyone watching him in action since he first turned up in late May should not be surprised that he got anywhere first.  His whole attitude has been Horatio Nelson’s “Lose not a moment.”

Every single day I’ve watched him in that house, I’ve seen long dumpster after dumpster filled as old carpet, old wood, old appliances continue to be stripped away.  I’ve come home to the sound of an electric generator as he’s worked late into to the night, usually alone, sometimes with a team, to get things done and the whole neighborhood has seen the transformation as the abandoned and overgrown house that began its life as a tiny company house for workers who had come from Finland or Sicily back in the 19th century when Fitchburg was industrial hub to a more modern and an attractive home that despite the small plot of land that it sits on will to fit a family of six by November if Paulo’s plans work out.

This week he took a few minutes away from his work to talk to me about his work on Camera:

I can’t help think as I watch Paulo in action that I’m seeing a young version of my Father. Dad had left school at 13 to work during the depression getting every hour he could in local factories, picking up every hour he could, doing the dirty jobs that needed to be done and joining various building crews learning how to build. In 1942 during World War 2 he entered the Navy as a ship’s carpenter and by the time the war had ended left as a chief petty officer. And at Paulo’s age he was doing pretty much the same thing, building or fixing small houses with his brother-in-law until he bought a bar called the Mohawk Club in Shirley and went into the restaurant/hospitality business. The two houses I lived in from the day I was born to the day I got married were built by him and when I watch Paulo in action I can’t help but think that if I had in my youth been more interested in my father’s skills and less interested in books and history that might be me next door fixing up that house for my son (and I’m sure DaWife watching Paulo hard at work fixing things might have liked it if her husband was a quarter as handy as the young fellow next door with a hammer as he is with a keyboard.)

But while I didn’t recognize the advantages of my Father’s way in my youth with the benefit of years I see the wonder of what’s going on. A young man born half a world away coming to America, earning and honing a skill over a decade and sacrificing hour after hour to get the seed money to get a mortgage to buy a beat up house, spending 70 hours or more a week, days night and weekends to get it to a point where he can get it in a good enough condition to rent it out for enough to cover that mortgage and his expenses and start the whole process again.

To be sure there are a lot of risks. There is always the possibility of getting problem tenants who trash a house that you might have to evict if they decide not to pay. Furthermore all of this involves laying out money for wood, and materials out front, not to mention the various legal hoops involved in buying a house and getting permits or construction. Finally there is a lot of hard labor involved. A single accident could stop things cold and if it does the bank or banks that hold the mortgages on the property will still expect their payments on time each month.

I’m also sure his young wife and kids would like to see more of him nor do I doubt that his kids might have enjoyed it if this Sunday morning he had been at home during this labor day weekend rather than putting up siding early in the morning.

But when those kids are 18, Paulo’s hard work today will almost certainly mean he’ll have the assets to send them to college if they wish, or if they are smart enough to follow in his footsteps might be in a position to have their dad co-sign for their first home to fix up or at least know how to fix anything in sight. And I suspect that if he has a daughter who wants a big wedding someday, the willingness to be hard at work on a Holiday weekend will be the reason he can afford to pay for one or two or more.

Put simply Paulo is what makes America great, but he’s also a symptom of the greatness OF America which provides a system by which a person can freely reap the benefits of their labor without the heavy hand of the state to smother them or the outstretched hand of the powerful or the connected demanding their cut. A system under which a person can, if they are willing to take the risks and regardless of race or class make more of themselves then they ever could elsewhere.

Paulo will likely never be as rich or as famous as the president but he is no less an American success story for it.

Do you know of an American success story that you’d like me to share with my readers and possibly include in a future book on the subject? Drop me a line and if I can get to where you are I’d be delighted to learn it and tell it.

Update: Paulo rather than Paolo should have stuck with my first instict


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