I’m so glad Cousin Claire shared this New York Times story on Facebook. It’s about a school custodian with an artistic bent whose talent is raising everyone’s spirits.
Corey Kilgannon writes writes that Israel Reyes, “senior handyman and longtime boiler operator at Public School 69X Journey Prep in the Soundview section of the Bronx,” finds the lonely summer months to be a good time “to concentrate on the colorful wall murals he has become known for painting inside the 93-year-old building. …
“For years, the 15-foot walls were faded and drab, Mr. Reyes said.
“ ‘There were no colors — it was like walking into a prison,’ recalled Mr. Reyes, who said that 12 years ago he grew tired of watching students entering the building each morning with their heads down.
“ ‘A lot of these kids come from broken homes, just like I did, and I’d see them walking in, all stressed out and looking down, because the school looked even worse than their homes,’ he said. ‘I wanted to do something to make them look up.’
“So he persuaded the principal to let him use leftover paint from other jobs in the building to start creating an educational wonderland. He worked for years, during his down time, his lunch hour and on his personal time, even late into the night.
“ ‘The kids come in now in the morning and they smile,’ Mr. Reyes said. ‘They come in and ask me, “What’s next?” and I show them what I worked on overnight.’ ” …
“Mr. Reyes, whom everyone calls Carlos, said he and his five brothers were raised by his father in the Bronx and on a farm in Puerto Rico.
“ ‘We had to make our own toys from garbage, from whatever we found,’ said Mr. Reyes, who as an adult has made sculptures out of trash-picked objects, especially the wooden legs off discarded furniture, to entertain his four children and 14 grandchildren.
“He calls it ‘table leg art,’ and has made a panorama representation of Manhattan that is on display in the school library, a cityscape with wooden legs as skyscrapers. …
“Until recently, said Mr. Reyes, a widower, his apartment was decorated in an over-the-top theme — a botanical garden with a pond, a lamppost and a park bench — recalling his Puerto Rican upbringing.
“ ‘When my son moved back home, I had to sleep on the bench,’ he said. ‘I’d tell people, “I’m not homeless, but I sleep on a park bench.” ‘ ” More.
I’ve read that no matter what kind of job you have, there should be some aspect that is yours alone, where you can express your creativity. I couldn’t agree more.
Photo: Santiago Mejia/The New York Times
Israel Reyes, at Public School 69X in the Bronx, wanted to brighten the building for students.