Caretaker or controller?

This weekend most people in the neighborhood were busy with lawn care. Saturday, I had some work to get done indoors on the computer, so I missed the flurry of mowers and blowers. In fact, I put on some loud rock CDs to miss as much as the mowing and blowing as possible. I had to run an errand around three o’clock, and Mrs. Dim glared at me as I drove off. I wasn’t alone, and the other person noticed the glaring too. “I have leaves on my lawn,” I explained, “and she’s getting all the leaves off her lawn. This is very important to her.”

“What a sad excuse for a life,” my friend said.

Mrs. Dim got her work done yesterday. More than twenty large black bags line the curb along her yard. They are on the street (which is against the law) because she doesn’t want them on her grass. And only a few leaves have fallen on her lawn so far today.

This afternoon after lunch I got out my rake and my wheelbarrow and went to work. First I cleared the front lawn, moving all the loose leaves to the curb (but still on the grass by the curb, because it is illegal to put them on the street). The city will come by with a machine to pick up loose leaves within six feet of the curb; they will be turned to mulch and used by the park district. When the front lawn was clear, I started raking the back yard, carting loads of leaves to add to the pile by the curb in the front yard. After more than an hour I quit, both because my muscles were getting sore and because the pile of leaves within six feet of the curb was about as high as gravity will allow. I will continue the job another day.

Using the rake and the wheelbarrow, I was able to hear birds singing while I worked (except when another neighbor was using his mower). Leaving the leaves loose, I have the pleasure of knowing that they will become mulch instead of rotting in a landfill. I recently read that thirteen percent of the space in our nation’s landfills contains bagged leaves and lawn clippings that will merely decompose in their bags without doing good for anyone. I’m glad to know that the leaves that fell on my lawn can be mulch in my flowerbeds, and when my flowerbeds are full, the rest can be mulch elsewhere.

Mrs. Dim and I have very different philosophies about lawn care. She wants immediate gratification—she wants what she considers the perfect lawn today, and she is unconcerned about the world her grandchildren will inherit. I’m more interested in taking care of the entire world and leaving it better for my children and grandchildren. If it irritates the neighbors to see leaves on my lawn, I try not to let their attitude bother me. I remember that every bag of leaves I do not send to the landfill leaves the world a tiny bit better for future generations.

The philosophic difference is even larger, though. I see myself and my fellow human beings as caretakers of the world God made. Wherever possible, I try to work within the system the Creator established in his wisdom. If a patch of wildflowers appears on my property, I mow around it and let the flowers bloom. Mrs. Dim doesn’t want just to take care of her property. She wants to control her property. She calls the wildflowers weeds and poisons them so they don’t disturb her grass. She tends her flowerbeds so they contain only the flowers she planted there. She bags her leaves and then spends money for mulch at the store. She does not care to hear the birds sing while she controls her property. Mrs. Dim is not content with the world that the Creator designed; she is determined to improve it to meet her high standards.

When someone has a different approach to lawn care, Mrs. Dim glares at them while they drive off to do other tasks. When someone’s opinion is different from mine, I don’t glare at them. I just allow them to inspire another blog post. Enjoy your lawn, Mrs. Dim, and have a nice day. J.

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