“Got any nails?”

A man was standing out in front of our house the other day, and I knew exactly why he was there. The truck pulling a trailer filled with extension ladders said it all before he even spoke. He and his small crew were out looking for work trimming palm trees.

He had rung our doorbell, but I had disconnected that a long time ago so the sound wouldn’t wake up napping grandchildren. So I walked out front and we began talking about my four palms badly in need of a trim. After he made an offer, I said, “Can you do it today?” He quickly replied yes, and we shook on the deal.

Now my front yard palms are well over twenty feet tall, requiring a much bigger ladder and a lot more courage to climb than I possess to maintain. I was really interested to see how they would get up there. The three man team had clearly worked together for a while. One guy set up the ladder and climbed to the top. The second disposed of the branches he cut off. The third owned the company and he watched while they did the work.

Back to guy number one. After leaning what looked like a twenty-four foot ladder against the tallest tree, he started up a chainsaw, hung it from his belt, and started climbing as it idled. At the top, he belted himself to the tree, and then quickly trimmed the tree to a neat “ten and two” (think clock). I thought the guy at the bottom would load up the trailer with branches. Nope. He just dragged them off into the adjoining vacant lot. I don’t know it you’re supposed to do that, but I didn’t ask any questions.

While all this is going on, my across the street neighbor is hauling some trash out to the curb. The third guy picked up a piece of plywood and proceeded to use it to repair a hole in the bed of his trailer. He yelled to me, “Got any nails?” I did and brought a box over to him. With a smile, he said, “My man!” and took a handful to fix his trailer.

When he was done with the trailer repair, he sat on my front porch with me. He asked for a Coke. All we had was Lacroix. He was thankful. I offered three, but he said the other guys wouldn’t like it. He asked me how long I had been in the house. I’ve been here twenty three years, but he has lived in Flagler County his whole life, sixty-one years, the same age as me.

He then told me about his first job in Flagler County when he was sixteen. Back then there were few roads through what is now our city. He and two friends were looking for work and came across a construction site. His friends were bolder than he was and went right to the foreman. When they asked for jobs, he asked, “What can you do?” They both said, “We’re operators.” He handed each a spade and showed them where to start digging. Then he asked this man, “What can you do?” He looked at his friends and said, “I’m not an operator!” The boss pointed to a truck and said, “Can you drive that?” He said, “Yes.” “Ok, pull it around here.” He did and that was his job. His friends all had blistered hands while he got to drive the truck.

My palm trees were trimmed and my yard was all cleaned up in about 30 minutes. The trees looked great! What a difference. And what a nice afternoon talking with a few guys just out making a living.

Cuttin’ the lawn for Christmas

img_8001.jpgI’ve lived in Florida for over twenty-one years and it still blows my mind that one of the things on my Christmas to-do list is “cut the lawn.” Granted, the days are a bit shorter, so the grass grows a little slower and I only have to cut and trim once a month or so. But for a guy who grew up in the northeast, it feels really strange to on sunblock and a hat, and do yard work in shorts and T-shirt just two days on Christmas Eve eve!

On the flip side, I enjoy the hour I spend cutting and trimming. (I like it better than bundling up to shovel snow.) Even though it is yard “work” there is something very relaxing about the sound of the mower, the smell of the freshly cut grass, the fresh air and the pattern of neatly cut rows. Today was especially nice: blue skies, just a few wispy clouds, 70 degrees with lower humidity, and just a hint of a breeze. No interruptions, no phone calls, songs going through my head, a bumper crop  of pine cones to pick up and toss into the woods, and the satisfaction of a completed task.

That last benefit is rare. Oh, I complete a lot of tasks, but rarely get to see the results. The “results” ministry are matters of the heart and soul, both of which I can’t see. The rewards are often eternal rather than temporal. I don’t get to see what happens after you go home from church, or I leave after a visit, so I don’t have a concrete metric for ministry. I’m OK with that. As Paul reminds us, we plant and water, but God causes the growth. Someone else somewhere down the road may harvest what I plant today. There may not be fruit for generations, long after I’m gone. That’s all in God’s hands.

But I can cut the lawn. I can care for the little “yarden” God has given me. And I can sit back and enjoy a little sabbath when it’s all done. Amen!