The other day I was sitting on my porch and the neighbor across the street was out working on the curb. He was cutting back the grass growing over the top of the curb. And scraping up the dirt and debris that accumulates over a season. The grass clippings that go in to the street the dust and dirt that builds up from a very dry summer. No real excitement in watching him. Other than he is every bit of 92 or older. He’s as lean as a man can possibly be. He’s our WWII veteran. He’s always dressed in slacks, tucked in shirt, belt. A baseball style cap on his head.
He has come out of his house and worked on this curb for a little bit, every day, for many, many days.
I’m not always home when he does it.
I got up and went over to him and asked if I could help. He said no, but it was one of those moments if you don’t know he means ‘no’ or he means he doesn’t want me to think he needs help. He wasn’t able to speak clearly. I noticed his hat and read out loud what it said and he confirmed that he was part of the group noted on his hat. Which means he is a very smart man. I said I would really like to help. He had a black trash bag in one hand and a shovel in the other, trying to shovel the debris in to the bag with one hand while holding the bag with the other. I reached for the bag and held the other side of it so he could shovel. And I used my hand to scoop up grass and debris in to the bag. I chattered while I did it. Even with the two of us doing this, it took about five minutes of scooping and shoveling to get it all picked up.
Then I stood up and wanted to carry the bag for him. But he had a grip on it and I was not about to make him think that I thought he needed me to carry it. I did tell him if ever wanted help working to let us know. I kind of got the impression he wanted me to go. He was very kind. But Husband and I have talked about this before. He wants to do these things. Last summer we noticed their grass wasn’t getting cut so Husband wandered over and asked if he could cut it for them. He did tell Husband he could. But when he saw Husband had one of those old fashioned reel mower he wanted to do it! So Husband let him have a go until he handed it back. The man likes to work.
But then yesterday, something happened that I had the privilege to observe. And it made me feel safe about who is in our world. Sharing it with us. And maybe some day watching over us.
A young man came up the street pushing his power mower. He has been cutting the grass for this neighbor all year. I could hear him refer to the older man with the title of “Mister”. How wonderful to hear. While he cut the grass, neighbor was working at the curb again. Building another big pile of grass and dirt to haul away. When the young man finished cutting the grass he walked over and offered assistance. Neighbor man said no. Young man asked if there was anything he could do to help. Neighbor man said no. Young man kept saying “are you sure Mister Neighbor?” He kept assuring the young man he was fine. Young man, however, was not fine. I could so easily read his discomfort at this very frail appearing and elderly man working on something so hard. The young man could not make himself walk away. He would start to move to do something like reach for the shovel, but stopped himself. He stood there and scratched his belly. He looked around himself. Not yet, has the young man grown in to the confidence to just do what he knows he should do. What he really wanted to do. When Mister Neighbor started to pick up the trash bag he asked if he could carry it for him. Mister Neighbor said no. He got his wallet out and paid young man for the mowing job. The young man was being dismissed, But he was struggling with what to do. He shoved the money in his pocket. He wanted so badly to pick up the bag and carry it for the elderly and frail man.
He so badly wanted to do the right thing.
Young man did, in the end, do the right thing. He got his mower, turned it on, and ran it down the sidewalk clearing the sidewalk of any grass clippings. He turned the mower off and put it in the street. He turned around and talk to Mister Neighbor and told him he would see him later.
Leaving Mister Neighbor with his trash bag in hand, to carry to the back of his garage, along with his respect and dignity.
Young man wasn’t sure if he did the right thing. It was so obvious. He was so very tormented by what he wanted to do for Mister Neighbor. But somehow, even at his young age, he knew there was a line there to not cross. To not insult. To not upset. To not make someone feel incapable.
But it bothered him none the less. And him being bothered? Was an honor to watch.