Our front yard has been our third child this last year and we’ve dumped a significant amount of money and more importantly time into it. One evening, Noel and I were out watering our yard’s newest acquisition, a nice patch of Buffalo Grass. As we looked at the yard we talked about how great it was looking and how excited we were to see things continue to improve. One of the old ladies in the neighborhood hurried over while we were out and we greeted her with a friendly hello to which she replied, “It looks like you’re finally landscaping!” (Apparently a year’s worth of weeding and planting plants didn’t count.) The conversation only got worse as she insinuated that we were dragging down the property value of the neighborhood and then finished by telling us it was such a shame we’d killed the tree in our front yard. (We’re still a bit confused on that one since it’s growing leaves . . .) Noel optimistically said he thought the tree could rally with a good pruning and I forced all the politeness I could muster into saying, “We’re getting there, but you know money and time are hard to come by.” She shook her head at us and headed back home. Noel and I fumed in silence for a little bit and then he said, “I should have told her, ‘If that tree is the only causality of our yard makeover it will be a miracle; we’ll be lucky if our children survive it!'” We both doubled over laughing.
Every time I find myself offended or going through a really hard time, I tell myself to remember how hard this is or how much it hurts. Not because I have crazy plots for revenge or because I want to dwell, but quite the opposite. I never want to forget how miserable those last weeks of pregnancy are, how humiliating it is to be asked to leave a church meeting because your baby is babbling, or how difficult it is to work in your yard when your kids are trampling plants and running into the street because I never want to lose my empathy and I especially never want to be the one causing hurt feelings. Instead, I want to be the one offering an encouraging word or a helping hand. Thankfully, I’ve also been blessed to brush shoulders with those that do remember. Fragile, little old ladies have offered to hold my babies if my arms get tired, moms of older kids have stepped in to help when I was about ready to give my kids up for adoption, and complete strangers have helped me on and off planes the few times I’ve flown alone with the kids. These are also moments that I never want to forget because I want to remember how meaningful small gestures can be.
Don’t think I’m fooled into thinking life will be easy when my kids are out of diapers or even out of the house. I know that there’s always some sort of challenge around the corner, that’s just life, but I also don’t want to be one of those people that says, “Oh well you think this is hard, wait until . . .” I really think there isn’t a more depressing thing a person could say to someone who is struggling. While facing adversity (both big and small) helps refine us into better people, I think we also go through tough times so we can help other people. And really, isn’t a better person someone who helps others?
Someday I’m going to be the little old lady on the block and a young family will move in and hopefully I’ll still remember the challenges of those days. Instead of criticizing them for not mowing their lawn the second it gets shaggy, I hope I’ll encouragingly call out “Carry on, warrior. Six hours till bedtime.” And maybe, I’ll even offer to let those kids come play on the awesome swing set in my backyard (which we’ll hopefully have by then) so their mom can get something done.