A Great Day in Brooklyn

When I visit Brooklyn, I usually end up at Moe’s Doughs Donut Shop. I have met there for years with my friend Don, an artist who lives in the neighborhood.
One morning we were enjoying a cup of coffee there (not a donut, as I am trying to watch what I eat). Earlier, an idea had come to me as I prayed: Give thanks with art and help someone. Paint every day that you are in New York.
It was Easter Sunday. In the display case was the most beautiful tray of donuts I’ve ever seen. It even featured donuts decorated with miniature Peeps.
I began sketching. Moe’s daughter saw me and asked if I was an artist. Don replied, “Of course he is. You should see his paintings!”
“Do you like my artwork?” I asked. She said she liked it very much. I thought, Why not paint their front window to say thank you to the community? Besides, since I specialize in fine art, the opportunities to show my work are somewhat narrow. Painting a window sounded like fun.
Moe asked how much I would charge to do a mural on the front windows. I knew my regular prices would be way out of range, so I just said, “As long as you provide the paint I’ll come and paint.” I promised to come back the next day around 2:30 p.m.
The family wasn’t sure if I was going to show up. I could tell they were a little worried—they had never dealt with me before, and they didn’t know what I wanted other than to paint.

I arrived at 2:30 p.m. sharp and showed them a little concept sketch I had done that morning. Then I started to work. I saw Moe watching me on the security monitor as I painted. He was smiling. When I was about halfway through the mural, Moe brought out his iPad. He was FaceTiming with his family: his wife, son, and daughter were on the screen. They loved the mural! “He paints so fast!” they said.

Later in the day his son, who is probably around six years old, and his teenage daughter came and helped with their dad’s shop. Moe’s son helped me paint sprinkles on the donuts. The boy declared, “I’m artist number one and you’re artist number two. I’m the master artist!” I responded, “Well, you’re the boss!”

When I was done they asked for one more favor: Would I paint a DNA molecule on the board for the daughter’s science fair project? It was the end of the day and I was tired, but I did, and I enjoyed it very much.

When I was done, Moe, smiling ear to ear, asked, “How much do I owe you?”
“You don’t owe me anything,” I said. “I wanted to paint and that’s exactly what I did. Consider this an Easter gift to you and your family. I’m visiting from Texas, and I just wanted to paint every day I was in New York. You helped me do that.”
He responded, “I’m a Muslim—I must pay you. It’s part of who I am.”
“I’m an American and this is your Easter Gift,” I said. “God is good and I love painting every day. A doctor in Texas just bought a very large painting of mine, and a few friends have bought smaller works recently, so this is my gift to you. If you’d like to thank anybody, thank them, because that’s why I can do this.”

He was beyond excited. His daughter gave me a huge box of donuts. I think the thing weighed 30 pounds! I took them back to Don’s apartment and shared them with Don and his roommates. It was a great day in Brooklyn.
Painting for Moe and his family was a random act of service. Since then I’ve gone on to paint three more windows for Moe’s Doughs, and another one is in the works. It’s not something I can do very often. But I’m so thankful for this opportunity to be generous—to do what I could do when I could do it. 

Rex Hausmann is an artist involved in Via Affirmativa, a Navigator ministry that “celebrates beauty, affirms artists, and engages communities for the sake of the gospel of the Kingdom.” He has shown work at The Smithsonian in Washington, DC, The Institute of Texan Cultures, Neiman Marcus, The Lawrence Art Center, and The Cloister at Sea Island Resort. His next exhibition will be “Rex Hausmann: Stations from The New Ephesus” at The Sheen Center in New York City, May 29-June 30.