I had read about the World's Largest Ball of Paint many many years ago, and had been keen on seeing and painting it ever since. Unfortunately I hadn't found myself near enough to the northwest corner of Indiana before now to visit, but since I was at last within striking distance, I chose to devote all my resources to finally accomplishing something I'd been wanting to do for a very long time.
My appointment was set for 7:00 p.m. since Mike likes to show people the Ball himself and he works a full time job during the week. He and his son Mike Jr. met me as soon as I stepped out of the car into the deepening gloam and led me to the shed with the aid of a flashlight, since Mike lives out in the country where light is scarce. When I first spied the Ball through the french doors of its special building (donated along with a good amount of paint by Sherwin Williams) my excitement spilled over and I gave my new knees a run for their money, springing up and down like Tigger.
Mike was generous and friendly and modest as I spent the next hour plying him with a barrage of eager questions. The more he talked, the more I could appreciate the pure goodness emanating from this extraordinary man. Over 30 years ago, he took a fun project he started with his son, got his entire family and community involved and has been having fun and sharing it with people ever since. Mike is all about allowing other people to participate and even turned down an offer to move the ball to a fancy pavilion in the nearby town of Alexandria because he wants to "see the ball. I wanna see people's reactions when they paint it. I wanna be here when they're here." He's discovered a marvelous way to meet like minded folks and give something to each of them. What a peach!
Mike carefully documents each layer and so took my picture and then had me note my name and such on his register. I received a certificate and was encouraged to choose some trimmings to take home with me (when the ball begins to pooch down in a random spot, Mike will trim it a bit to help keep it round). Before I made it back to the car, Mike had even scooped up an armload of whimsical plywood pumpkin and candy corn cut outs he'd made as given them to me as a gift so I could put them in my yard when I got home. The guy just can't contain his generosity.
I drove away, brimming with love, feeling like I'd just met the Ghandi of the Roadside Realm. And not only had I met a holy man, but I had relics to prove it.