April 28, 2018: These young men tackled our pine needle problem.
Three weeks ago, we had the privilege of having a group of young men from our church ward's youth group come to our home and clean up the yard for us. There were nine young men (ages twelve to seventeen), five of their youth leaders, and two members of our bishopric who showed up at my door at 8:30 on a Saturday morning, prepared to work.
The big backyard is always the worst.
These are young people with a work ethic! They jumped right in and had the whole yard done in less than two and a half hours. I didn't see a single youth who failed to carry his own weight. No one stood around looking uncertain or trying to avoid the labor. I also didn't see anyone who worked grudgingly. Each person, youth and adult, had a smile on his face and spoke cheerfully, laughing and joking and solving problems together.
I asked what I could provide, like a snack or a breakfast, but the Young Men president said, "Water would be good. That's all they need." So I filled an ice chest with ice and bottled water. As the day warmed up, it became a very popular stop. A mother of one of the boys brought by three dozen donuts, and one of the youth leaders brought a big bag of fruit snacks, so the boys had energy sources available.
The big pile of branches in my yard was becoming a fire hazard.
In a sense, this service project was an extension of the men's November project, when the elders and high priests from church came to put on my new metal roof. A few of the men had also pruned some trees and trimmed back a bunch of dead branches from my oak trees and Ponderosa pines, resulting in a huge pile of green debris in a corner of my driveway, along with another, smaller pile of leftover roofing supplies. They assured me that they'd send a group back to haul away the piles (since I don't have access to a truck or trailer), and bring along the youth to rake my yard for good measure.
Backing in a trailer to haul off the green waste.
Our fire season has always had the potential to start early, but back when we used to have wet, snowy winters, we generally didn't have to worry much before May and June. This year, though, after an extremely dry winter, the mountain fires began very early, in March. All have been human-caused so far, which is scary because it's completely unpredictable. So I was getting nervous. I told several people I was worried that my yard would become the catalyst for burning down our entire neighborhood. And I was only half-joking! Thus, I was SO relieved when these men and youth came to rescue my yard.
Chopping up the branches cut down by our bishop (on the right).
I did make one special request, which was, again, a carryover from the November project. Two tall oaks on the north side of my house had extremely long branches that hung very low, especially when weighted down by snow. Unfortunately, they were attached to the trunk at a very high position, difficult to reach. The men who were there in November didn't have a tall enough ladder and didn't feel they were young enough to tackle such a tricky, strenuous task.
Prior to the arrival of this April group, I asked if some of the younger men (not the boys) could get those branches for me, and they did. They brought a taller ladder and a chainsaw. It was, in fact, our ward's bishop who took on the task, and it was a little bit frightening to watch. But they did a great job!
Tackling the pile.
I love how the people in my church family are always willing to minister to each other in a variety of ways, serving needs both physical and spiritual. I've always felt inadequate in this regard, having a desire to serve but coming up short in the recognition of needs and how to effectively offer help. As a single, working, older mom (I was thirty-five when my first child was born) with limited energy levels, my own life was often so overwhelming that it was hard to push myself forward, let alone see the need to reach out to others. Most of my service opportunities seemed to be reserved for my children and closest friends and family.
Now that I'm retired and my children are adults doing great things on their own, I'm working to become more aware of the needs around me. I hope to get better at this throughout the coming years. Although my ability to physically serve will become diminished over time, I know there are many other subtle ways in which we can show love and give support to one another. It really is, always, all about love.
The leftover roofing materials were finally taken away to the dump.
As for being the one on the receiving end, that can also be difficult. I love these givers for their selfless service during my time of need, but I'm frustrated that there's no way I can ever pay back what they've given. This has required a shift in perspective for me. It's not truly service if something is required in return, so I need to let go of my need to pay it back. Instead, I need to look for ways to pay it forward. Somewhere, someone has a need I can fulfill. I just need to open my spiritual eyes, listen to the Spirit, and be prepared to act.
Wish me success!
Loading the big pile of branches into the trailer.
It was awesome to see that huge pile dwindle to nothingness.
And soon the job was done! It just took two loads to do it!