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A Higher Sweeper Power

Our vacuum cleaner, literally, was not up to snuff and didn’t seem to be sucking up dust and dirt like it used to so we took it to Ye Old Sweeper Shoppe on Bluffton Road in Waynedale where we had bought it a few years ago.

Owner Ralph Skaggs agreed to look it over and give us an estimate that same day. When he called later, we agreed on the price, and he said the sweeper would be ready the next morning.

When we picked up the repaired vacuum Ralph said we would notice a real difference in its suction power. Anxious to try it out when we returned home, I started vacuuming the living room. I noticed the increased suction power immediately and was quite pleased with the sweeper’s performance. But as I finished vacuuming the room, I evidently got too close to a Christmas tree because the sweeper sucked several thin ribbons off the branches and wrapped them tightly around the roller brush.

After about 20 minutes of trying to cut the tightly-wound ribbons off the roller brush with a knife and scissors, I removed the roller assembly from the sweeper despite warnings from my wife, Marty, not to! After another 15 minutes or so I had successfully removed all the ribbon and gave Marty an “I told you so!”

But since I was a little uncertain about putting the parts back together properly, especially the drive belt, I loaded the machine back into the car and headed for Ye Old Sweeper Shoppe. I ignored Marty’s “I told you so!” as I pulled out of the driveway.

Ralph was surprised to see me again so soon and immediately asked what was wrong. I assured him it was not any mistake on his part and quickly summed up my recent vacuuming mishap in as few words as possible. He was most gracious and understanding, and immediately began putting the machine back together including the installation of a new belt at no charge.

As he worked and I watched we began chatting about his career as owner of the Shoppe for more than 47 years. I inquired if he experienced any difficulties during the recent pandemic and he admitted he almost lost the business.

“As the epidemic wore on, I eventually could not make my monthly payment,” Ralph said. “Representatives from the bank visited me one day and said they would return the next morning with foreclosure papers!”

After they left, Ralph sat down and assessed his situation, he reiterated. Eventually, he said, he turned to God in prayer. He then told me, with an obvious lump in his throat, how he asked God for help. “I told God that I knew I was loved and cherished by a God who watches over every sparrow. Not one of them will fall to the ground outside your care,” I prayed. “And then I asked Him to also watch over me, too, so that I wouldn’t lose my shoppe,” he continued. “But if it was His will that I not continue to own the business, I would accept God’s will for me.”

Ralph’s prayer undoubtedly was longer and more sincerely said than what he briefly related to me. And just talking about it, I could see he was visibly moved in recalling the incident to me.

Ralph said after about 20 minutes of thought and prayer he resigned himself that he probably was going to lose his store. Then the door to his shoppe opened and a man came in asking if he could use the restroom. “I knew him,” Ralph said. “In fact, we had gone fishing together one time on my boat. I told him he was welcome to use the restroom.”

A few minutes later, the man sensed that something was upsetting Ralph and he asked him what was wrong. Ralph explained what had just happened within the hour and said he probably was going to lose his business.

“No, you are not!” the man assured Ralph. “I will be back tomorrow morning with my checkbook. Whatever you need we will take care of it. I’ve got all the money I will ever need and I’d be happy to help you out,” he promised Ralph.

The man indeed did return the next morning. And he wrote a check to cover the entire amount Ralph owed the bank for his business.

As I left the Ye Old Sweeper Shoppe with my newly repaired vacuum cleaner I thought: “What if, in his emotional distress, Ralph understandably had refused to allow this brief acquaintance to use his restroom!”

Vince LaBarbera
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Vince LaBarbera

Vince is a Fort Wayne native. He earned a master of science degree in journalism and advertising from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. LaBarbera is retired but continues to enjoy freelance writing and serving the Radio Reading Service of the Allen County Public Library. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer