Compassion: Gentle Rain from a Cloudless Sky
- Monday, December 02, 2002
Author Sharon McMahon Moffitt uses the Beatitudes at a springboard to reflect on what it means to live the Christian life in her book, The Blessed: A Sinner Reflects on Living the Christian Life. Following is a short excerpt:
It all began last summer when we called a landscape artist to estimate what it would cost to save our lawn, which, due to our neglect and the handiwork of some sort of insect, looked like a vacant slum lot. After surveying the damage, he turned to my husband and said the lawn could not possibly be saved. For somewhere between one and two thousand dollars, he continued, he would bring his crew in to strip everything bare and reseed the area, as long as we understood there were no guarantees of success unless we did our part. I didn’t say it, but I wondered why we had to have a part if we were going to pay him two grand.
Goaded by shame for my neglect, coupled with a hefty dose of Irish pride, I decided he was mistaken and began a campaign to restore the lawn and garden. For the remainder of the summer I labored, mostly with a small hand tool, to loosen and aerate the soil under and around patches of still-living grass, strip up yards of dead sod, and finally reseed and water. In late August, I escorted my husband outside to witness the fruits of my labor. "We’re not there yet, but it’s coming back," I announced, "and I will succeed."
The blessed rains of fall and winter saturated the thirsty soil, and in March, I learned about Tagro. My friend Carla attended the annual home and garden show at the Tacoma Dome and called to tell me I could have all the free Tagro I could haul away from the waste treatment plant out on Portland Avenue. It took a bit of cajoling to get my son Michael’s assistance. The idea of loading his truck with fertilizer made up largely of stuff filtered out of the city’s sewage system, including what he chose to call human fecal matter, did not appeal to him at first. I told him to pretend it was steer manure, but being the suburban boy that he is, that didn’t serve him the same way it did the latent farm girl in me. To tell the truth, it didn’t serve me all that well either, but I was determined to save that lawn, and a truckload of free fertilizer was nothing to turn your nose up at. So we tossed shovels into the truckbed, donned grubby clothes and surgical masks, which would prove to be absolutely useless, and were off.
Spending time with Michael is almost always a blessing. He’s smart and fun and funny, finding humor in virtually every circumstance. After graduating from Southern Methodist University, where he studied acting at the Meadows School of the Arts, he decided to come home for a time to reflect, save up a bit of money, and lay plans for his future. When he left for college, neither his father nor I ever expected to get him back for more than a holiday, so we were thrilled to welcome him home, knowing it wouldn’t be long before he’d be off on his next adventure, which, as it turned out, was a year in Belfast on a mission team working with the city’s youth in a movement toward peace and reconciliation there.
But on this day in March, he was all mine, and we were on our way to load up his truck with the miracle product that would put us, once again, in good favor with our neighbors -- at least the ones who lived upwind. As we came upon the Portland Avenue exit ramp, we filled the truck cab with pained laughter over our weak attempts at puerile puns. There is seldom a lingering silence in any space occupied by the two of us, though for some reason we grew quiet as we pulled up to the light at the bottom of the off-ramp, where I saw a woman sitting on a box holding a piece of tattered cardboard. On it was scrawled "Homeless Woman Needs Food for Family." She sat under a billboard advertising the Emerald Queen, a floating casino docked in Commencement Bay.
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