One Massachusetts couple received an unexpected outpouring of love.

You never know what someone else is going through, which is why they tell you never to judge a book by its cover. Or, as per this story, a house by its exterior.

An Anonymous Letter

an unpainted house
GoFundMe

Jimmy and Marilyn Curcuru have lived in the same house in Gloucester, Massachusetts, for over half a century. They raised three children in that house, and for a long time they were active community members who owned a local small business.

Unfortunately, life had gotten in the way, and they couldn’t care for their house the way they used to. As a result, it slowly deteriorated. They felt bad about it, but they didn’t expect anyone else to make them feel bad about it.

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But someone did. One summer day in 2020, the couple received an anonymous letter in the mail. “Please paint me,” the note said, as per CNN, calling the house an “eyesore.”

Jimmy, 71, told the publication he was upset at first. It wasn’t the letter itself, but the fact that whoever sent it “didn’t have the nerve to sign it… It was cowardly of them to write a letter like that.”

Setting the Record Straight

Once the couple’s daughter, Michelle Curcuru Baran, heard about the note, she decided to make the moment a teachable one. So she went on social media and shared it wide and far, explaining how her parents had fallen on hard times.

In 2006, Jimmy had a heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery. As a result, he had to close his framing business for months, and it never really recovered.

He also developed kidney issues due to the medication he needed to take post-surgery. He still worked part-time at a hardware store until the pandemic, when doctors told him to stop and protect himself. He then retired to “stay home more and be with [Marilyn].”

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Marilyn, meanwhile, had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and used an electric wheelchair in the past. However, by then, she had become bedridden. The couple’s other daughter, Lynanne, had left her job to help care for her mom.  

In short, the couple was dealing with various health issues and didn’t have the finances to maintain their home the way they wanted to.

“To my concerned neighbor, thank you for letting me know my house needs to be painted. Guess what? I know. I’ve been working on it for almost four years,” Baran wrote, as per CNN. “I myself always drive by houses that look like mine and wonder what’s up in their lives. I don’t judge them not knowing what they may be going through.”

A Beautiful Gift

Once the family’s other neighbors heard about the note, they decided to get involved. Baran told the publication how hundreds of people reached out and asked how they could help. The Mayor of Gloucester, Sefatia Romeo Theken, even stopped by personally to see if she could lend a hand.

A man named Rob Cluett also set up a GoFundMe page soliciting donations to help the Curcurus fix up their home. In the days that followed, people gave nearly $80,000 US.

“The [Facebook post] was written the day that it happened, so our original thought was anger, especially my sister who lives in the home with them and has sacrificed so much… it’s hurt and anger at the beginning,” Baran continued to CNN.

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“But as the weeks have gone by and you see this outpouring from the community, at this point, the person who wrote the note doesn’t really matter.”

According to Baran, the money raised went toward a new paint job, but they were also able to repair the leaky roof and replace rotted clapboard siding. They also updated windows that had not been replaced since the 1950s.

“We don’t care who wrote [the note],” the couple’s son, Jimmy, wrote on the GoFundMe page. “We want to enjoy the love and support of this great city we live in. I want to thank everyone for everything you have done and are going to do.”

Reserving Judgments

This family is so inspiring because they turned a bad situation into a positive one through the power of community and love. They’re right: it doesn’t matter who wrote the note because the real story here is how people responded to neighbors in need.

It’s also a reminder to all of us that we should always try to remember that we never know what someone else is going through in life or why they live the way they do. Asking whether a person needs help or offering a lending hand is always better than judging them, even if there’s nothing you can actually do to help.

And if you can help a neighbor through a crowdfunding campaign or other donation, remember that small acts of kindness culminate in a big difference in someone else’s life.

Just ask the Curcurus. Thanks to their community, their home is once again something they’re proud of.