The World’s Greatest Painting by James Freeze

When he was a young boy, he had pictures of cartoon superheroes taped to the walls of his room.

When he was in high school, his walls were covered with pictures of great athletes.

In college, he had posters of movie stars on the walls of his dorm room.

When he got his first job, framed pictures of fancy sports cars were on the walls to motivate him.

As he moved up the corporate ladder, his walls became almost completely covered with personally autographed pictures of celebrities he had met over the years.

On the day he retired from his position as the CEO of a Fortune 500 Company, he packed up his belongings all by himself. He went back to the office one last time to take down the only remaining painting left on the walls.

On the corner of the father’s desk was a photo of his only son at five years of age proudly displaying his first finger painting and in his mind a great one at that. Hanging on the office wall was the actual work of art.

He remembered the day his wife showed up at his office with their son, to present the painting to his father. The father had made a ceremony out of the event. He told his son, “a masterpiece of this magnitude deserves its rightful place of prominence on my office wall”, and in his presence dubbed it, “the world’s greatest painting.”

His son, now 31, a 10-year resident of New York City and a professional dancer, had taken a completely different career direction from his father. The obvious business success of the father had been at the unfortunate expense of his family, especially his son.

Shortly after his son had moved to New York, his father decided it was time to try and make amends. He began to write him letters on a weekly basis. The early letters seemed to be laced with instructional arrogance which brought no response or acknowledgment.

Each week he would stare at his son’s finger- painting, reflect, and begin to write. As weeks became months, the letters unintentionally mellowed into more of a sharing of what the father had learned about himself and life in general.

The retiring CEO had been honored by his co-workers. They regretted him leaving but knew he had earned the right because of this constant display of honesty, integrity, and genuine compassion toward all those around him.

As months turned into years, the truths about success, life, hope, and love spilled on to the pages of his weekly letters. Truths which he had known all along, but had by now become cemented into his heart through his weekly outpouring. He began to realize the true beneficiary was himself.

Then suddenly after 3 ½ years the father stopped writing. He didn’t know why? Had he run out of things to say? Did his intended recipient not care? After all, his son had never responded to a single letter. He had no answer for himself.

He now stood in his office for the last time, pondering a story his wife had shared that very morning. While on a trip to visit their son a few weeks earlier she had asked him why he had never responded to his father’s letters?  “I’m not sure I know how to answer that, he said. You know dad and I don’t communicate that well in person. But, since you’ve asked, let me show you something.”

The son pulled a large binder from the shelf where contained inside all of his father’s letters, in chronological order, each one neatly placed in a clear plastic sleeve as if being preserved for posterity.” This is my favorite novel”, he continued,” I read from this almost every day. It has become the thing that keeps me grounded. It is my daily inspiration and motivation. In fact, I think of it as the (World’s Greatest Book) and wish I could find a way to encourage dad to add more pages.”

Removing his son’s masterpiece from the office wall, the father had already decided on the perfect spot in his home office. Also, he had decided on his first official day of retirement he would get up at 6 AM as always. He could hardly wait for tomorrow and was more excited than he had been in a long time.” What a terrific second job,” he thought, “I have a book to finish.”


James Freeze

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5 thoughts on “The World’s Greatest Painting by James Freeze

  1. To be honest, I was thinking, oh no, not a “Cat’s In the Cradle” sort of thing. Gladly wrong. It could have easily slopped over into sentimentality, but the author skillfully brings it home, smartly and happily.


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