A brief moment of grace — a sheriff’s deputy paying for a stranger’s meal at a fast-food restaurant drive-through — snowballed into that man painting a wounded veteran’s home.

Tulsa County Sheriff’s Deputy Tracy Lewis paid for the $3 cheeseburger months ago. The recipient, Tom Barbour, turned that small courtesy into using his company, CertaPro Painters, to perform the painting job.

“It only takes one random act of kindness to move the world forward,” Lewis said.

Despite Lewis’ efforts to avoid being complimented for her favor, Barbour informed the Sheriff’s Office about it. He asked for its help to pay the kindness forward.

Barbour and the Sheriff’s Office, after some searching and deliberation, decided they should paint the house of James Martin, a disabled veteran who served 15 years in the Army. He also is the founder of Wounded Veterans of Oklahoma.

Sheriff Vic Regalado surprised Martin on Thursday morning with the gift. When he delivered the news, work already had begun on Martin’s house.

Martin, as a result of his service in the Middle East, has had at least six major surgeries, Regalado said.

“Veterans are truly this nation’s most valued treasure,” the sheriff said. “James has earned the right to sit back and just enjoy life.

“Yet through Wounded Veterans of Oklahoma, he continues to sacrifice for the benefit of others who have served this country with honor and pride.”

Martin’s organization teams up veterans for hunting, fishing and camping trips so they can share what they went through, what helped them endure and what continues to provide them some relief.

Martin was unaware what was happening to his house when the sheriff invited him to speak to his deputies about Wounded Veterans of Oklahoma. He keeps the organization open to emergency responders, who he said share experiences similar to those of veterans.

“This is a complete shock,” Martin said after finding out about the painting project. “It’s amazing how things work.”

Martin said the gift was “such a blessing” for him and his family. For years, he said, they have not had the time or money to paint their home.

“Small acts of kindness for people who serve can be life changing,” he said. “One of the biggest struggles people face in the military and … first responders and police officers face is ‘do people really appreciate what we’re going through?’”

Barbour told Martin that by the time he arrived home Thursday, his house would be a mess. Prepping for painting is unsightly, Barbour said, but by the end of the job Saturday the home will look like a new place.

Martin said Lewis, who purchased that cheeseburger for a stranger and then tried to dodge a thank-you, had performed a “huge act.”

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​Harrison Grimwood



Twitter: @grimwood_hmg

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