Friday, June 15, 2007

Of neighbors and lawn care

We, my husband and I, moved into our little house in Florida in December, 2004, following a record breaking year for hurricanes. We hunted for our new house beginning the day after Hurricane Charley hit, so we saw quite a bit of the devastation in Central Florida. The last truly disastrous hurricane in the area had been 40 years before.

In that one hurricane season of 2004, neighbors rediscovered the art of neighboring. They came out of their houses after each storm and surveyed the neighborhood. They shared food that defrosted in freezers bereft of electricity. They cooked on their grills in a giant block party and sweltered together since none had air conditioning to draw them inside of their individual homes. At the end of the day they joined together by the light of tea candles. The damage to properties repaired more easily with many hands. All chipped in where they could.

We missed out on this neighborhood bonding. But we heard the stories.

But by the time we waved good-bye to the moving van and settled into the work of turning a house into a home, we had met everyone who lived in the houses closest to ours. The sense of community still set strong in their thoughts.

Our experiences before moving to Florida had been primarily with farm folk and agrarian societies who will do anything for you in a crisis, but respect your privacy to the point of isolation during good times. So it was with awe and a few tears in our eyes that we looked on as the neighbor men brought their tools to our yard and set about helping my husband learn the art of manicuring St. Augustine grass.

Up north we eradicated such tough, viney, leggy, crabby grass, but down here in the land of sand and sun, apparently it is the grass of choice. John with his edger and Bill, armed with weed whacker, together they cleaned up our yard in short order. They talked with my husband who had just finished mowing the grass. I visited with Bill's wife. Then they all went their separate ways.

A couple of disaster-free years passed and we had all fallen back into the habit of doing our own things. A friendly wave, a smile, a short conversation, but for the most part, life kept us busy and headed in our own directions.

But, in the past few months, my husband's disability has reached the point where he can no longer pretend that all is fine. Our yard has turned shabby, our house needs painting. And that pesky St. Augustine grass vines nicely onto the sidewalk while growing unevenly and in patches throughout the yard in front of our house.

We hired a painter to take care of the house. And a co-worker at the office where Derrol works, volunteered his teen aged son to come and mow our lawn. It sounded like a good plan, if temporary, but better than getting warnings from the neighborhood homeowners association -- another new experience for us farming types. This son agreed to mow our lawn tomorrow afternoon.

Good, that's taken care of.

I chose not to look out on our shabby lawn and busied myself in the closets that needed cleaning.

A trip to the kitchen and a glance out of the window stopped me short. There, in our front yard, John and his lawn mower were making short work of our grubby looking lawn. By the time I shut my mouth and wiped the tears from my eyes, he whisked his machine back across the street and continued working on his immaculate lawn.

I could wonder if John had just gotten sick of looking at our ill-kept lawn -- its possible. But knowing his strong faith, his belief in being a good Christian, and his soft heart. I could learn alot about neighboring from John. I believe he guided his mower across the street and into our yard simply to help out a fellow neighbor who now leans on a cane and will soon be powering around in a wheel chair.

I believe that human kindness is still alive and well in our little neighborhood and that gives me hope for the rest of this battle scarred world.

As for John, I know my hugs and slobbery tears would make him uncomfortable. So I'm looking for just the right way, the right moment, to say thank you.

No comments: