I know what you are thinking.
Bill, there is something wrong with you.
At the age of 66, is it true that you still enjoy doing yard work?
Yes, I confess I do.
With yard work, there is only one thing that garners lots of non-church language—leaf raking. I despise it. If rankings were given, I suspect our Richmond neighborhood would have one of the highest ratios of fallen leaves per square inch as any place in America.
Since I was kid, I have always puttered around in yards. First, out in my parent’s yard on West Front Street in Burlington. And gradually, I had a few yards that I took care of during the summers for neighbors.
When our oldest daughter and her family lived in Chicago, I even did some landscaping on the grounds of their condo building.
Neighbors where my in-laws once lived in Farmington, Connecticut tried to steal me away for projects in their yards.
When they asked me about helping them out, my standard answer was—you can’t afford me. I have three kids in college, or we’re planning a wedding. These nice people would nod, laugh, and continue their walk with disappointment.
And continuing with a relative connection, I’ve helped out in the yards owned by my sister and her husband too. Their farm yard in Snow Camp, North Carolina is a beauty.
My wife, the Commander Supreme, and I have even done yard work in the rental houses where our youngest daughter lives in North Carolina and our son in Richmond.
Now, our son his wife and their two daughters are in their first house just across Patterson Avenue from us.
This spring, the Commander Supreme, our daughter-in-law’s father, our son, and I have blitzed their backyard. For whatever reason, this backyard had been neglected by many previous owners.
I fully expected some unclassified creature who had been hiding out in all of the debris and undergrowth since the founding of Jamestown to lurch forward and scare the living daylights out of me. Thankfully, that surprising lurch never happened.
But, all of this investment of time and energy into this yard did lead me to share the following observation with our son.
One afternoon I told him, “You know it has finally dawned on me, that your mother and I have spent more time working in your yard, than you ever spent working in our yard at home.” He just chuckled.
I’ve helped out on the grounds at three schools where I worked during my education career, and from time to time I do some trimming and weeding on the grounds of our church.
The other day a co-worker noted that I had done some work in one of the church gardens. She complimented me, and went on to recommend that taking care of people’s yards could be something I could do when I really retire.
I can see the sign on the side of a truck now:
Billy Bill’s Yard Care
( will work for beer and pound cake)
Over the last few years, the Commander Supreme has taken a keen interest in various aspects of our yard. The Commander has quite an eye. She has become a meticulous trimmer. And somedays, her assignments really wear me out.
But, I think that is one of the things I enjoy about the yard work—it is often a good work out. On those brutal humidity laden days, I believe I sweat just as much if not more than if I had gone for an early morning run.
If I happen to spend a summer day working in our yard, and helping out in the yard of our elderly neighbor across the street, then I know these words from Ecclesiastes 5:12 will hold true for me: “The sleep of a laborer is sweet.”
During this COVID-19 isolation in our bi-weekly Zoom conversations with our college friends, yard work has been a common theme. Maybe, the biggest chuckle came when we learned that one pal uses a small blow torch on weeds.
Yesterday, in our Zoom chatter, this statement surfaced—“Life is tricky.”
Over the course of the last week, we have seen that life is tricky.
Why is life tricky?
Well, there are lots of possible answers.
But, just maybe, some of those answers are tucked deep down in our souls.
I sense that we have reached a point where those tucked away items need to be brought out and carefully placed in the sunlight.
They need to become conversation, opportunities to listen, to learn, and to gently push us out of our comfort zones.
I recently read an article by Dave Hyde, a sportswriter, for the Sun Sentinel, a south Florida newspaper. Mr. Hyde was writing about the passing of legendary Miami Dolphin football coach, Don Shula.
Mr. Hyde recalled the first press conference after Coach Shula had been hired. A reporter asked if he had a plan over a three to five year span to turn the losing Dolphins around. Coach Shula’s response was very simple, “My plan is to go to work.”
And go to work he did, he turned the team around.
Right now in America, we must commit to “go to work.”
Coach Shula saw a challenge, an opportunity.
America too has a challenge, an opportunity.
In some ways for a long, long time we have neglected our challenges.
When yard work is neglected, the challenge to get the yard back in shape is more difficult.
What lies before America is hard work, but it is work that must be done.
If I really love our country, then I must “go to work” so that I can be a part of helping our country solve our challenges.
I have four good reasons to support why I need to “go to work.”
Take a look at this photo from our backyard.
It is a classic, a younger brother spraying his older sister on a warm spring afternoon.
I owe to the future of our four grandchildren and all children in America to “go to work.”
Like my soul works in the yard, my soul needs to “go to work” for the future.
Whether you want to admit it or not, your soul needs it too.
And when we make this commitment, like the laborer in Ecclesiastes our sleep will be better.