The Kindness of Strangers and the Generosity of Me-Me

This did not start out a red-letter day for yours truly—in fact, for a while there it was one humiliation after another—but it took a turn for the better. First thing this morning, I dropped the kids off with my mom in Cibolo and headed over to the Schertz Community Garden for a volunteer gig. To become certified as a Master Gardener I have to put in fifty-some-odd volunteer hours, in addition to completing all the classroom work. This particular venue was far from my house, but close to my mom’s, and I was glad to have an excuse for a visit—not that we need an excuse.

I left my mom’s armed with a Google map and set of instructions that assured me I’d reach my destination in fifteen minutes. After half an hour’s fruitless driving, I concluded that this map had been created in a parallel universe, one that did not have a whopping big subdivision smack dab in between points A and B. I backtracked and retried: no good.

Being lost in a subdivision is better than being lost far from human habitation. I showed my map to a nice man who was standing on his driveway, about to take his son to a basketball game. He studied my directions, took pity on me, and offered to lead me to my destination in his car. Five minutes later, after traveling several streets that DID NOT appear on my map or directions, we arrived safely at the Schertz Community Garden. I humbly thanked the nice man, and thanked God for putting him in my path.

I put on work gloves, grabbed my sharpshooter shovel out of the back of the Suburban, and presented myself to the Master Gardener Powers That Be.

Our mission for the morning was to ready the garden for an upcoming tree-planting seminar. First job was to dig six square holes, 18”X18”X18”. Now, the way to dig a hole with a shovel is to place the edge of the blade on the ground, hold the handle in an upright position, and jump onto the shoulders, using your weight to power the blade deep into the hard clay soil.

This was an epic fail for me. The sight of me ineffectually hopping on my shovel three or four times before teetering off to the side would have delighted my children, had they been present. Emilie would have gone for the camera.

The general rule—kind of a no-brainer for digging holes of this size—was one volunteer per hole. I, however, was paired with another small woman with a rate of success similar to mine. We pooled our inadequacy for about ten minutes and managed to dig our blades about three inches into the soil. Then a nice man took pity on us and…

Do I detect a pattern here? I’m afraid so, and not just for today. It is a common thing for strangers to take pity on my incompetence and come to my rescue, and I am thankful. I have heard grace defined as unmerited favor, and I’ve had a lot of it bestowed on me in my lifetime.

Within five seconds the nice man had beaten our sorry efforts all hollow. He even graciously allowed us to salvage some dignity by scooping the soil out of the hole ourselves.

I performed better at arranging big pieces of cardboard around the tree holes, shoveling mulch into wheelbarrows, and covering the cardboard with the mulch. The idea is that the cardboard and mulch will smother and kill the healthy thatch of Bermuda grass so it will not leach nutrients away from the newly planted trees, all without using Round-up. All I can say is good luck with that—and several of the Master Gardeners said it too.

Once the mulch was spread, I packed up my shovel and gloves and caught up with my mom and the kids. Mom—or Me-Me, as she is known to her grandchildren—treated us to a day of shopping.

Daniel was glad to get new shoes—his old pair was truly coming apart at the seams and went into the trash after the new ones were purchased—but balked at the notion of a new pair of jeans. His reasoning: “I already have one nice pair, and I only need it once a week.” Yeah, well, that one nice pair is currently residing in the back of the Suburban, along with a T-shirt, a pair of boxer shorts, a tire iron, and a roll of Weed-Eater twine, and has been for over a week, so I think his point is debatable. It also turned out to be moot, as our search for size 30-34 jeans proved fruitless as usual. Daniel quickly became bored with the whole thing and regressed to the shopping-avoidance behaviors of little-boyhood: playing with remote-control cars, lying full-length on the floor, and hiding amongst hanging clothes.

Anna’s choices demonstrated her fondness for bright colors, astonishing shoes that would look deranged on me but are just right on her, and animal motifs. Oo! A snake bracelet! A leopard ring! A snakeskin skirt! (Emilie: Is it real snakeskin? Me: No. Snakes don’t launder well.) Emilie, true to form, was drawn to long dangly earrings, long dramatic necklaces, and black formals that remind me of Audrey Hepburn (and I might add that if Emilie’s father ever saw her in such a gown, she would be confined to her room for a decade at least). I shopped in the Juniors department with the girls, but cautiously, keeping in mind the time, years ago, when Anna soberly told me that the pair of jeans I’d tried on were “too young” for me.

For hours, my mom showered us with gifts and affection. It was a day of grace all around. Now I’m going to bed. All that shovel-hopping wore me out.

2 comments on “The Kindness of Strangers and the Generosity of Me-Me

  1. Daniel C. Midkiff says:

    I was sleepy. Very sleepy. Actually dozed off there at one point. And I have 2 pairs of nice pants, not 1.

  2. Jim McNeely says:

    This is a great story, in a very real life way, that points out why grace is so hard to accept! We love being viewed as self-sufficient and under control. You are such a lovely writer, thanks. I wish you would post on FB when you have a new post so I know when you have something.

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