Apparently my newest Calculated Act of Kindness is to plant gardens an do yard work for friends. Even new friends, and people I barely know. When gardening with a friend the other day, I asked about his neighbor’s yard. It is such a cute neighborhood but this house… Well. It stood out for the wrong reasons. Come to find out he is a vet suffering from PTSD. Needless to say, weeds aren’t his priority. My friend told me that his family tried to help him clear his home once in a while and was even able to talk him into hiring a skip so they could at least help to clean up his yard. Apparently, leaving his house hasn’t been such a priority for the last few years either.
There was a woman who lived across the street from my childhood home named Karen. She lived alone and would always buy Girl Scout cookies when I came around. Otherwise, we’d wave hello but had very little other interaction with her. But we could tell, even as kids, that her existence was lonely. And because we grew up under the Donley regime, yard work was a regular occurrence. My parents had us outside picking up leaves and doing other odd work in the yard a lot. If we got in trouble, we knew what the punishment would be — yard work.
(I know. Poor little suburban white kids who had to work in their YARD. Who got to dip in their POOL when things got too rough. BOO FREAKING HOO. Don’t send the email, haters. I know. I’m spoiled.)
But I’ll never forget the look on my mom’s face when my brother and I came in one summer day after having picked the weeds out of Karen’s yard. Without being asked. It was like a Christmas miracle in July. Her little heathens had voluntarily done yard work. What we knew as kids, but couldn’t quite yet express, was that Karen needed a break. What we’d realize as adults was that she was suffering from MS and couldn’t manage another task. Soon enough, she’d greet us with a head nod, her hands holding the cuffs on her leg braces.
It was such a simple thing, but it made Karen cry. And it made me want to do it again.
I’m not sure that picking someone’s weeds is the most patriotic way to spend Memorial Day weekend, but it is on the list. At least this time I have a machine similar to this mini excavator brush cutter so it’s not as much work as when I was a kid. (I’m obviously growing increasingly antsy for my own yard. So close. So close.) And in the meantime, Dana in Golden has a planted vegetable box. Because I couldn’t bring myself to let it remain fallow. Plus, this is the type of kindness I believe in. See something that needs done? Do it. Help your neighbor. Be kind. And if you barely know them? Well, you either made a new friend or you didn’t. Either way you spend the afternoon outside in the sun with your hands in the dirt doing good.
(Also — how incredible is the greenhouse she and her father built out of recycled materials from the Habitat for Humanity Restore? Holy Moses. Awesome.)
Happy Memorial Day, friends.