Being Useful

“Hope your folks don’t mind me doing this!”

The garage door of our house sits approximately 150 feet from the street of a quiet neighborhood. So when I saw an elderly gentleman sitting in a golf cart behind my car, I was a little taken aback. I motioned both my kids to get into the car.

“Can I help you with something, sir?”

“Well, I was just telling your son, I like to do what I can to help keep the neighborhood looking nice. I don’t breathe so well sometimes, but when I’m feeling good and the weather cooperates, I like to get out of the house. If it’s alright with you, I hope you don’t mind if I pick up your garbage cans from the curb and bring them back up for you. Would that be okay?”

My internal conversation went a little like this:

“I have 12 minutes to get to an appointment 10 minutes away. What’s the fastest way to get this man off my driveway so I can get out of here? Decision time. Do I do what is expedient, or do I do what is courteous?”

“My name’s Kathy. Nice to meet you.”

“Name’s Byron. Byron White. I live with my daughter in the house by the horse stables.”

We talked for a few minutes. I told him that of course it was okay if he picked up my garbage cans and that it was very much appreciated. He told me again that he sometimes has trouble breathing, so he won’t always be able to pick up the garbage cans, but weather and health permitting, he would do so every Monday and Thursday. He likes to do what he can. I thanked him kindly again and he drove off down the driveway to provide the same service to the neighbors across the street.

Yes, we were late to the orthodontist, but only by about three minutes. My son checked himself in on the computer in the lobby and proceeded to brush his teeth at one of the four sinks in the theatre/media room. (This is a very swanky place. They don’t call them million dollar smiles for nothing.) Meanwhile, I get comfy in one of the plush couches in the waiting room and pull out my handy dandy notebook to write a story about my neighbor Byron.

About a paragraph into my story, I see a little boy about 3 years of age come running up to the cooler located beneath the plasma TV in front of me (again – swanky). He opens the door, pulls out a small bottled water and runs towards the media room. I watch him with growing amusement as he repeats this process four times. On his fifth visit, he is accompanied by a very apologetic looking father who is carrying two water bottles, which he replaces after his son takes out another.

My daughter, who had been watching a movie, comes out and tells me there is a little boy in there that keeps asking her to play a game with her. “Did he give you some water?” I asked, smiling. “Yes!”, she said. “He got EVERYONE a water!”

The very young and the very old often operate under the same principal. They want to matter. They need to know that while they can’t do everything, they most certainly can do some things.

I think it would serve us all well to remember that no matter where we are in life; no matter our age or circumstance, every one of us can be useful in some way. Just as every one of us can be grateful to and for one another.

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