September 27, 2009
Do you ever feel like you have bitten off more than you can chew? Really, it's pretty easy to find yourself in the disciple/New testament situation where you've invited 5,000 people over for supper and to your embarrassment, you have nothing to serve except a couple of fish (and who really likes fish all that much, especially when you had your mind set on burgers) and some bread that you bummed off a little kid. (Actually, this never happens to me because as many of you know, I have an oversupply of rectangular salmon in the freezer. Still you get my point.).
In fact, I feel that way a lot. I look at my yard, which by the way has a lot of potential. Unfortunately, it hasn't placed that high on the to-do list since mid-July 2002 when Erin first got diagnosed. Truthfully, it had fallen fairly low on the list after Davis signed up for competitive soccer some time late last century. We keep up with the mowing and from time to time the flower beds look okay, but I have neglected the deep work that makes yards and gardens sustainable. So, for instance, if cleanliness is next to Godliness in Louisiana iris beds, all I can say is I wonder what slovenly-ness is next to?
I knew things had gotten bad last Tuesday. Nico (12), Adam (9), and Ian (4) came over to wish me birthday. Adam headed out to the lake's edge to see if the rain had done anything to raise the water level. He came back with this conversation starter:
A: You know the grass at the edge of the lake has gotten very tall. I think out of control.
V: I know. Since Davis was gone this summer, we hire the lawn mowing out, and the person mowing the lawn didn't trust himself enough to get to close to the edge of the lake He was afraid the mower would pull him in.
A; It really doesn't look very good.
V: I know. I need to get out there with the weed eater and knock it all down.
A: I can help.
V: (thinking this was a theoretical conversation and a theoretical offer of help) Okay.
A: What do you have on on your schedule for this Saturday?
V: I have soccer during the middle of the day, until around 3:00 or 3;30.
A: After church on Sunday, then?
V: After church will be fine. I'll pencil you in.
So, my buddy came over today and we made some headway on the yard down by the lake. We used a lawn mower, a weed eater (with appropriate eye-safety gear), two sharpshooter shovels, and a couple of pairs of gloves. We carried four loads of dead sticks and branches to the brush pile, three loads of pulled weeds to the compost, and finished with a grape and a cherry popsicle. I'm not done with yard work, but I'm no longer over my head. You might can even see some eyebrow hairs if you look carefully.
I love this example because it's one that bears repeating.
You can find help for almost anything if you ask nice, if you look in the right direction, and if you accept even unsolicited offers of help with grace. You should also say thank you deep, wide, and frequently (if fact, there is actually no way that you can say thank you too much or too many times), and it's even better when offers of help move up and down a two-way street.
I relearn this lesson almost every week, whether it is the set of Albertson's bonus stickers that came in the mail this week from Margaret B. (She doesn't shop at Albertson, but she knows someone who does and asked for their help in my bonus sticker saving project for getting pots and pans for the abuse victims building a new life at Phoebe's Home) or whether it is the refilling of the lanyard board when new opportunities roll in with a short fuse. Thank you members of the Beaders Hall of Fame!
I'm pretty sure I didn't know this real meaning of this lesson until after Erin got sick. I think back then I thought of help as sort of a quid pro quo thing. I would turn down offers of help, just so I wouldn't incur a favor debt. If I did accept help, I never wanted to stay in favor debt for too long. At some point I realized that no one was keeping score on Help Given versus Help Received, and even if they were, there was no way I could ever even the score back up (much less win). I kept playing anyway, and worked on saying thank you gracefully. It may be the most grown up thing I have ever done.