This story is from Tuesday, Sept 19.

One of the items on our list is to tackle the front and back yards. They are severely overgrown with anything but grass varying from 2 ft to 5 ft tall. It makes it really hard to believe that someone could actually live in the house. In addition, getting it all cut down is a nice psycological motivator — some instant gratification visually as well as being able to check something off our list.

So being at the beginning of the day and full of energy and enthusiasm, I set off to cut, mow, weed-eat, whatever, the front yard. I started with the weed eater. Things were going ok if not slow. But at least I could look back and see where I had been. I was eating through line though and my lower back was beginning to hurt even though I was switching hands and sides. It finally became evident that I was not going to be able to even get the driveway done, much less the whole front or even think of doing the back.

So I decided to follow the old adage – “Work smarter, not harder”. I told one of my teammates that I was setting off to a neighbor’s to see if I could beg, borrow or rent a mower.

The house directly across the street was a logical choice. They have a direct view upon the eyesore house and I figured there would be some incentive for them to lend or rent me their mower since they would enjoy some of the improvement benefits. So I sauntered up to the house, all the while their little ankle biter dog yipping at my presence. I knocked on the door and an old man answered. In my humblest request, I told him I was a volunteer from Kentucky working with Christus Victor doing hurricane relief and could I borrow or rent his mower. His one word reply was “No” followed by the door shutting. Deflated, I wanted to take it out on the yipping little mutt who mocked me all the way back to the street. I was bummed — my hope in southern hospitality knocked down a peg. A quick survey of the house kitty corner revealed no one home. I wandered down a side street looking for help. As I walked down the street, I could see in the back yard of the crotchedy old man neighbor and there sat a fairly new Craftsman riding lawnmower. Trying to focus on my previous test of “not judging” I tried to rationalize his response by the possibility that the mower was broken and I had just interrupted a long distance call to his daughter.

Further down the street, I came across a home that had quite a bit of stuff in the front yard. Amongst the building supplies, blow up pool, lawnmower, etc were three crosses about 6 to 7 feet high. I had already passed the house but decided to give it a shot. Halfway up the driveway the owner came out and I recited my previously failed request. He immediately offered up his weed-eater lawn mower and we began to conversing. He too had some damage to Katrina but felt blessed that he could still live in his home. He just got the kitchen finished — with help from church youth groups — and was proud to show me the completed room. He still had dirt in a side room but continued to include the word blessed in the conversation. He has a son in the Air Force and two son-in-laws in the Army. He is a very typical God fearing, Jesus loving, military supporting, cheerful giving, southern hospitable guy. He even offered me gas for the weed-eater and additional line strips. We also talked about NASCAR and how his faith in the Lord saved him from gangs, drugs and alcohol. I asked him if he was going to be home all day and he replied “yes, unless I go out to take one of my older friends to the Dr or an appt”. How cool is he? After a little while, I walked away with the mower and just marveled at the circumstance. Had the first neighbor said yes, I would not have had the pleasure to meet Martin or hear his story. I said a little prayer for Martin as well as for his family serving our country in the military. As I write this, I continue to be amazed at the way God weaves things into our lives.

Thanks for saving the day, Martin! I really appreciate your neighborly sharing and southern hospitality. I will never forget your quote — “If we say we have faith in Jesus, we need to give back when asked.”

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

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