Two weeks ago, we got served. After being in our neighborhood for nearly five years, we received our second grievance during such time. Our neighborhood has an association with rules and regulations which, if not obeyed, will result in such grievances being filed. Both times we've received our notifications, it was for the same thing, weeds and lack of mulch.
The first time we got our notification, we had been in our house for less than a year. My wife had just given birth to our second child and I had started seminary three months earlier. Thankfully, some friends from church had come over to put an, "It's a boy!" balloon on our mailbox, clueing in everyone around us that we had a few things happening in our lives at the time.
Last year, in the midst of everything happening with my mom, the weeds began to pile up again. A true friend from church came over and donated her time to rid our landscaped area of the weeds that had overcome it. I was so grateful. There was no way that I was going to find time to weed and mulch in the midst of all of that. I wasn't even able to cut my lawn and was also grateful when someone donated some grass cutting to us until the end of the summer.
The funny thing is, I now have a reputation in my church for the weeds in my landscape beds. Justified or not, I find great humor in it. I am sure that there are people who don't find it as funny, but the way that I have always looked at it is that if I have the choice between weeding and making things pretty or spending time with my family doing something a little more meaningful, I'll choose my family every time. The nice thing is that my kids are getting old enough now where they can actually be one in the same, the weeding and mulching can be a great bonding experience for our family.
And that's just what it was the other day. I had mulch delivered, expecting a fairly decent week weather-wise. I was greatly disappointed when the weather hardly cooperated, raining just about every day from the point that the mulch was delivered until it was actually laid. As I continued looking at my windows at the rain, I tried to estimate the extra weight of the mulch as it became more and more saturated.
I finally realized that my time window was running out and I planned on getting home from work a little early so as to jump into the project. My neighbors had some wheel barrows that they told me I could borrow, so I went over there to grab them and their boys started getting their stuff already to come help me. They brought the wheel barrows and pitchforks to move the mulch, they started diligently to work as I began the arduous task of moving 8 yards of mulch.
The boys recruited another neighborhood girl and my youngest son and made an assembly line of sorts. The system was pretty efficient, other than the fact that I was the only one actually spreading the mulch. Before I knew it, the skies began to darken and the rain came. At first, it was slow, but eventually, the skies opened up and I thought someone was standing above me with buckets of water, just pouring them over my head.
In a matter of hours, we have moved at least five of the eight yards. Everyone began to retire for the evening and I wonder whether or not I would even be able to move the next day. It's been a while since I had exerted myself to that extent. I knew I still had two to three yards to move, but I was pretty proud of what I had accomplished.
As I thought about the whole situation, I was struck by a few different things. First of all, someone had driven by my house, at some point, and noticed the weeds. It annoyed them enough that they wanted something done about it, but they bypassed relationship to go for the "quick fix." Instead of ringing our doorbell to see if everything was all right, they did the easy thing: they made a phone call and complained. I guess ringing the doorbell would have taken too much time and it might have required them to actually give of themselves. They might have had to pretend that they cared.
On the flipside of that was my neighbors. They offered their help to us simply because they cared. They weren't looking for anything, they hadn't complained about the weeds, if they had, they most likely would have called or rang the doorbell. They just wanted to help out and lend a hand however they could.
Life moves too fast not to slow down and take notice of things once in a while. Next time you see something and want to complain, maybe you should take the time to ask what else is going on beneath the surface. If you take the time, I'm sure you won't be disappointed. You might find that you have a lot to offer someone who has little. You might find that someone just needed someone else to talk to. You might find that taking the time leads to a long-lasting friendship and someone who has your back. It's easy to look at the surface and make our own presumptions. We could all stand to take the time to dig a little deeper to find out what's below the surface. Who knows, we just might learn something and our lives might just be a little more relationally rich than they were before.