“Jeremy, take this $200 and invest in your son's life.”
Upon hearing those words, my knees went wobbly, my eyes filled with tears and my throat seized to the point of making swallowing impossible. Reaching out to accept the cash gift was excruciating. At the time, I simply could not understand why the man standing before me was so eager to bless me. Later, I came to understand.
In the Summer of 2002, I was working hard to build my freelance business as an Art Director following the horrible events of September 11, 2001 and the demise of one of the largest consulting companies in the world, Arthur Andersen. My wife was pregnant with our first child, a son, who was to be born in July of that year. Those were difficult times that necessitated my proactive self-employment activities.
So, in addition to providing freelance Art Direction services to a number of technology clients, I was also experimenting with a wedding invitation design company with my wife. We provided custom design services and full printing and production services. Producing high-quality invitations requires not only appropriate printers, but also a complement of finishing equipment such as paper cutters, paper hole drills and paper scoring machines. That kind of equipment is highly specialized… and expensive.
In my efforts to find a source for ‘inexpensive’ equipment, I pored over listings in the Yellow Pages (remember those?) for ‘Used Printing Equipment’. That effort produced the name of a printing equipment dealer by the name of Herbert Baumgartner.
Herbert operated a shop on the edge of downtown Dallas in a district locally known as ‘Deep Ellum’. He was a very large man, easily taller than 6 feet 4 inches and easily heavier than 300 pounds. Yet, his spirit and demeanor toward other people was wholly non-threatening, warm, inviting and infectious. So pleasant was Herbert’s interaction, that I made several visits over the course of the spring and summer of 2002.
My first visit occurred in May of that year. It was on this first visit that Herbert connected me with a very capable guillotine-style electric paper cutter. After that visit, I made several more to inquire about additional equipment and with each visit I was able to get to know Herbert a little better.
I learned about Herbert’s family and his upbringing. I learned about the founding of the printing equipment shop by Herbert’s father some 40 years earlier. I also learned about Herbert’s unfailing love for a guy named Jesus Christ who Herbert claimed to have delivered him from death, literally, between the years 1995 and 1997. In 1995, Herbert apparently suffered a massive stroke that led to an extended hospital stay. Complications during his recovery led to the failure of several internal organs, including his heart. Upon hearing the description of the conditions, I couldn’t help but ask of the man if he had actually died. The question seemed ridiculous, but his answer left me dumbfounded. Indeed, he had died. ‘flatlined’, as it were, for several minutes while medical staff and doctors attempted in vain to resuscitate him. The doctors had given up and were preparing to leave the surgery room when, inexplicably, Herbert began to breathe again and over the course of the next year, fully recovered from his stroke and all the damage inflicted on all of his internal organs.
During my final visit that summer, I shared with Herbert the news of my wife’s pregnancy. Upon hearing my words, Herbert went silent and merely gazed at me with tears of joy filling his own eyes. After a long pause, he produced the gift that ultimately led to my investment into savings accounts for all of my children’s college education.
As it turned out, I never made another purchase from Herbert, but the solid paper cutter he sold me has likely sliced through the equivalent of several thousand reams of paper and runs like a top to this day.
And the price I had paid for the cutter? $200.