Last spring, while taking some time away from work, I began a project that I had put off for a while. Around my home’s perimeter, I have river rock. The weeds were having their way with one particular area, and every time I took out my trash and I was brave enough to peer around the garage, it seemed that a jungle was beginning to grow. All the stones needed removal and new material placed underneath to keep the unwanted foliage down to a minimum.
My first trip was to the dreaded hardware store to pick up the landscaping roll, pins to hold it in place, and buckets. This has never been a favorite outing. During my childhood, I recall visiting many of these places with my dad. He seemed to speak in a foreign language about saws, wrenches, and screws that all had their use. None of it ever made sense to me, and even now, I still struggle to understand what some of the products are on the shelves. Throw in math and measurements, and I zone out.
I gathered up my supplies and started the process of picking up the rocks with gloved hands. I had no idea the labor and time this was going to take, but I kept a clear vision in my mind of a pristine area that no longer brought on a cringe.
At certain times of the day, the sun would go over the house, which provided shade. Despite this, as summer approached, the temperatures began to rise, so I was often drenched in sweat. I would go out of the house fresh and ready to conquer and return weak, dehydrated, and filthy. My reflection in the bathroom mirror always displayed a “dirtstache” over my top lip.
One evening, I decided to go back out after giving it a rest from working earlier in the day. It was cooler, and I wanted to accelerate my progress. My neighbors had friends over for a cookout, and the section I was focusing on was visible from their front porch. Soon, I felt a presence next to me. A little girl smiled and said,
“Can I help?”
While the adults were having cocktails and talking about issues she couldn’t comprehend, she decided that what I was doing looked more attractive.
I caught on quick that boredom had led her over. She didn’t want to lend a hand; she just wanted someone to keep her entertained. I turned on music that she requested, which was followed by humming in between a million questions. Every rock she picked up was examined, and I was asked what it was. Not many made it into the bucket she was given. Instead, she put them back and moved on to another one that caught her eye.
“Do you know how fast I can run?” she asked with her big brown eyes looking at me intently, hoping I was up for the challenge.
“No, I don’t,” I said.
“I will show you!”
And like a flash, she was running toward the backyard. I stopped what I was doing so she could see that I was paying attention to her. I had sympathy as I recalled being her age and stuck in a room full of older people and feeling left out of the conversation.
She ran back to my side, panting uncontrollably.
“This time, can you count?”
“Sure,” I said.
I mean, what would it hurt to do so if it made her night more fun? She got into a runner’s stance showing how serious this was.
“Ready? Set? Go!”
She took off again, and I began to count.
When she returned, her breath came in short gasps.
“I want to run around the whole house. Can you still count while I do that? I want to know how fast I am.”
“Okay,” I said.
It would be easier to keep doing the task I had come out to accomplish with her out of my sight. The rocks were not leaping into the buckets by themselves, and it was going to get dark.
We went through the countdown, and she took off like a shot.
One of the neighbors yelled,
“Chris, you are a sucker! She will have you doing that all night long!”
I put my head back down and grasped a handful of rocks in each hand.
“Nine, ten, eleven, twelve…”
I was shouting numbers at the top of my lungs to be sure she could hear me. When I saw her coming, I slowed way down, and as she pulled up next to me clutching her kneecaps with both hands, straining to breathe, I said randomly,
Once she was able to talk, she said,
“I am going to do it again to see if I can make it back faster. Count slower this time.”
“Okay,” I said with a smile.
It was like cheating on the number of swings you take when you golf.
She got in position to go again, and I began to count so she could hear.
“One, two, three, four…” I yelled out in a happy tone as I dropped more rocks into the bucket.
Suddenly, I felt like I was being watched. I glanced to my left, and an older woman passing by on the sidewalk was frowning at me like I had lost my mind. From where she stood, it appeared that I was counting each rock as I was removing them. The little girl was still on the backside of the house. The lady’s forehead was tight with confusion and concern. At first, I thought of ceasing my count, but the speedrunner was depending on me, so I didn’t want to disappoint.
As she shook her head and rolled her eyes, I counted louder. She moved on quicker when I made eye contact with her.
That is when I started to laugh, and I am sure that solidified the idea that my sanity had slipped away. Things weren’t quite as they appeared.
This can be said for many situations we encounter daily. Do we jump to conclusions or make assumptions based on what we see or hear? Maybe that person across the street with the political sign in their yard that doesn’t line up with your views has a need you can fulfill. But, the sign keeps you away. How about the slow driver who is impeding your progress, is crying their eyes out on the way back from a funeral? What about the long line at the grocery store because the cashier is new and doing the best she can?
We are quick to process a scene without any insight.
As I move along in this life, I am more conscious of that still, drama-free, inner voice that speaks knowledge that cannot be seen with the human eye. For me, this has led to more compassion, grace, and forgiveness.
Tapping into my spirit, I have access to wisdom that keeps me more grounded and less off my rocker.
Psalm 19:14: May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock, and my Redeemer.