From the comfortably, cozy darkness of my bed, I listened through the night as my house creaked and shuddered against the winds of a cold front. And now, in the early morning, I opened the garage door to find my front lawn blanketed with soft white............. newspapers. Everywhere I looked.
Someone's garbage can had apparently blown over. "I'll get to it later," I thought to myself as I continued loading my car with the essentials I'd need for a day of errands, work and preschool. It was several minutes before I even noticed that my elderly next-door neighbor was stooping over in my grass as he attemped, one page at a time, to clean up the mess.
"Bless his heart," I thought, feeling bad that he was concerned over a few pages of newspaper that had blown into our yard. So, I walked out into the driveway to signal him to stop and let me finish the clean-up. Then I looked to my right. His own yard was completely covered in what looked like a month's supply of paper, plastic and glass. It appeared as if both his little yellow receptable and the big black one were no match for the weather's wrath.
"Drew!" I shouted. "Mommy needs your help!" I figured that with 3 of us working, the task wouldn't be so daunting. We could probably get it all done within 10 minutes, tops. So, I gave my son a few general instructions ("Let's see you pick up as many papers as you possibly can, then go throw them in that big black trash can. OK? Go!").
The wind sent chills up my body (stupid open-toed shoes in January!) as I bent down to scoop up wet paper and cans containing dog-food remnants. Looking back, I wish I could say my chilly toes were the most uncomfortable part of my morning. But after a few moments of careful consideration, my son finally responded to my request with some instructions of his own.
"Mommy! You know you have to go to work now. We don't have time... you are going to be late!"
Nothing like the reflective honesty of a three-year old to reveal your true priorities. My child has been on the receiving end of countless pleas to "Hurry up", threats that "We'll be late" and the general pace of "Rushed".
It only stands to reason that when I suddenly veered off of our course, he thought I needed a bit of redirection.
Oh, how I needed redirection! His little worrisome response made me realize that I have somehow given my child the impression that my time is more important than my neighbor's need. That life is about staying on task and on time. Not about staying around or getting involved.
So, I made sure we lingered until every last piece of newspaper had been squished back into that big black can and every plastic bottle had been returned to it's proper container. And it felt good. It felt good to know that we would be running a little behind schedule that day and that our hands may need to be washed one more time.
Walking up the sidewalk back to our house, I noticed that there were still several mushy clumps of newspaper littering our flower beds and migrating toward the far side of our yard. It didn't bother me too much, but I knew it would be an eyesore my hubby would not miss when he got home. Hoping I'd just beat him back to the house before day's end, I decided that we would leave the rest for later.
So, we jumped into the car and backed down the driveway. I began to pull away from the house when I noticed that my neighbor on the other side had come out of her house and, standing in bare feet, was picking up the remainder of MY mess and placing it into her garbage can.
I rolled down my window and gave her a tear-filled "Thank You So Much!" before I pulled away. "No Problem!" she called out, happy to help.
I'm grateful today for the way a little windy weather blew me off course. It gave me a chance to let Drew practice a little neighborly love, and a chance to be neighborly-loved in return.