TRAVERSE CITY — Chris Stein spent the past 20 years trying to teach boys and young men to do things for others while expecting nothing in return.
“Selflessness,” he said, looking toward the front of his Ra Wa Si Avenue home Tuesday, tears running down his cheeks. “To have the courage to stand there and do something, expecting nothing in return.”
It’s a value system that has ruled Stein’s life for decades and one that came back in spades to the long-time Boy Scout scoutmaster Saturday.
That day — a little more than a month after Stein was diagnosed with an aggressive bladder cancer that threatens his life and will require significant surgery — Stein watched as more that 80 people streamed quietly into his yard. The men, women and children arrived just before 7 a.m. to remove and replace the shingles from the roof of Stein’s home.
The chore completed by neighbors, Boy Scout families and friends was one Stein intended to do himself. He bought the shingles for the job a few years ago but life got in the way of the work. By this year his roof was in dire need of repair. He had planned to complete the job in the fall, but the plan was derailed by his canc diagnosis.
“I don’t know why they did it for me,” he said. “It was a major worry of mine, because my roof wasn’t going to make it through another winter. We were wondering financially how we were going to pay for everything.”
So, while Stein was downstate preparing for a second surgery now scheduled for Oct. 3, his friends, co-workers and former scouts began to plan.
“It’s time to help out and give back,” said Rick O’Niel, a scout leader who has worked with Stein in Troop 30 for about 17 years. “He has a hard time accepting that kind of help. He’s used to being the one helping out, but it was time.”
O’Niel is one of a handful of Stein’s friends who worked to organize the event. He and Tim Coggins, whose son is a member of Troop 30, worked for about 10 days to prepare for the work.
Coggins contacted a handful of local suppliers and contractors for help gathering the $1,800 worth of additional materials needed to finish the project.
“I said, ‘Hey, we need money and we need help,’” Coggins said. “Chris is about the most unselfish person I’ve ever met. This is kind of a testament to what Chris is all about.”
Then came the time to work.
The volunteer laborers included Stein’s friends, neighbors, Troop 30 scouts and even a few of the 70 Eagle Scouts he guided through the years.
It took only six hours from start to finish to replace the roof. The people left as quietly as they arrived. Stein sat in a chair on his front lawn watching in amazement. He couldn’t help because of complications from his first surgery to remove the tumor doctors found.
“Nobody hung around to get pats on the back or hugs, they just silently walked away,” Stein said. “They wanted no credit.”