A little buzz of irritation showed up in the neighborhood last summer.
The issue was lawncare.
Last spring a new family moved into the neighborhood, a couple blocks down the street from us. The yard was quickly filled with tricycles, kick balls, trucks, forgotten jackets, juice bottles, and a kiddie pool – a fun place for toddlers and little kids wanting to play outside.
When I’d walk around the neighborhood in the evenings, I’d sometimes see a very tired mama mowing the lawn, navigating the play yard. The flowerbeds weren’t on a list of priorities, and trimming was something that would have to wait. I’d say a quick prayer for extra strength for this woman who had her hands full.
Apparently, there were some in the neighborhood who saw the yard – and other yards around the blocks – and were concerned that weeds weren’t weeded and toys weren’t put away and that too much time passed between mowings.
In our neighborhood newsletter this month, it was noted that not everyone is keeping their yards looking great. (Note: It’s March. How do you make the snow drifts look good? And it’s been several months since any kiddie pools have been outside.)
My heart sank. I wondered what the young mama with the house full of rambunctious children was feeling as she read it. And the others who work long, hard hours and try and attend 15 practices and games every week and get the grocery shopping done — those who just ran out of time which meant that something couldn’t get done which meant that the flowers were getting lost in weeds that looked like small bushes. We’re talking about home yards. Not junk yards. (May I just say again…Good grief.) These are families trying to get so much done in a world where the expectations for measuring up and meeting everyone’s expectations are just unrealistic.
Thinking about the mama down the street, I wondered…
If someone from the association, or a neighbor, was concerned about how her yard or anyone else’s yard looked, did they talk to them about it? Did they strike up a friendship? Offer to watch the kids or bring over lemonade?
I’m guessing that it was easier to talk to others about their displeasure or frustration. So, the poor mama reads about it in the newsletter, along with other homeowners wondering if their names came up at the meeting.
I’m probably making a few too many assumptions here, but this note in the newsletter got under my skin. Perhaps it’s because I’ve remembered the times when I’d rather talk about a problem than talk to the person I’m probleming with.
I’ve seen it in the workplaces. Someone isn’t performing well – missing deadlines, not “carrying their own weight.” Our most natural reactions? Talk to her supervisor. Talk to HR about it. Talk to colleagues to see if they’ve had the same experience.
But we don’t talk to the colleague who is struggling.
We can play this out in other situations, can’t we? In our churches. Committees. Volunteering. Friendships.
We talk around her, as if she doesn’t know that she’s struggling, which certainly doesn’t create a great place to live or work.
Whether we’re talking with neighbors on the street, cubicle mates in the break room, committee partners in the conference room, or friends at the party…
When we talk about those who seem to have a different set of expectations in how they live and work, or are one step away from a melt-down…
I wonder…do we really want to make things better? Help our colleague out?
Or do we want to just talk about it … with a little bit of judgement and self-righteousness tossed in — all wrapped in our silly defense of “wanting to help.”
Lord, have mercy.
I’m feeling the sting as I rewind some of my own messy moments. Sometimes it’s just good to remember what a difference the words we say – or don’t say – make.
When I read the scriptures, I never read stories of Jesus stopping at the coffee table in the temple to ask the worshippers to pray for Peter who was blustering about something new. Jesus never shared the ugly side or the frustrating side of those he hung out with.
Instead, He talked to people. He talked to those who here stumbling and hurting. He asked questions.
Lord, may I learn to do this better in my own life.
There are tired mamas out there, barely holding it together.
There are frustrated, anxious co-workers, just hoping they can get through the day.
There are friends and family who desperately need our prayers, not our judgement.
How about if we find helpful, faith-filled ways to meet them where they need us to be.
I want to do this better.
We are all in this together.