Archive for the ‘More serious’ Category

Mr. Giles

January 18, 2009

Note: Dorisanne, our pastor, has started an Epiphany series on “tearing and light”  She asked me to write something to read in the service today on that theme.  This is what I wrote. — ABT

If you live anywhere close to our neighborhood, you have probably seen Mr. Giles. He is the man always pushing the red lawnmower.

If you have been to our house, you know that we don’t really have a lawn, per se. Our whole front yard is covered in English Ivy, our back yard — a desert wasteland. So how it is that I have come to know Mr. Giles and his lawnmower? Well, the lawn mowing business thins out certain times of year, so one day Mr. Giles asked if he could sweep up the leaves from the street in front of our house. I paid him forty bucks to do that, plus clip the vines off our front walk and cut down all the little baby trees that were sprouting up through the Ivy.

Now, we only have forty bucks worth of work to do in our yard about twice a year. Mr. Giles, however, has to pay for his room at the motel every week. So, as you may imagine, Mr. Giles started showing up a lot more often than I would have liked, bright and early every Saturday, in fact, usually while we were still in bed. I wonder how the Good Samaritan would have felt if the guy he picked up by the side of the road had kept coming back week after week – asking if he could mow the non-existent lawn for $40? Would he have been kind every time?

Sometimes I would find something for Mr. Giles to do, even though I didn’t really think it needed doing. Sometimes I couldn’t think of anything for him and would try to turn him away. When that happened he would usually try to talk me out of some cash, and if I refused that, he would ask if we had anything to eat. Mr. Giles is kind of picky about food, by the way. He doesn’t like diet drinks for example, and he has high standards for the kind of soup he will accept. “Does it have meat?” he’ll ask, eyeing me suspiciously, “Big pieces?”

Soon enough he was driving me nuts. I did the only thing a good Christian in this situation can do. I hid from him. I ducked guiltily out of site of the windows as soon as I heard his knock, and held my breath until the coast was clear.

This worked pretty well until one winter day Craig and I were headed out to the car in a little bit of a hurry to get somewhere — I hope it wasn’t church, but it might have been – and there was Mr. Giles, lying in wait. He looked especially old and not very well that day — glassy eyed and bareheaded even in the cold drizzle. Could he sweep up the leaves? He asked urgently. Could he mow the back alley? I let Craig be the bad guy, “No, not today. Sorry.” “Do you have something I could eat?” “No – not today – we’re leaving.” We hopped in the car and backed out of the garage while he was still mid-sentence. I saw him in the rearview mirror as we pulled away – standing in the nasty, grey winter – hands hanging at his side.

I felt the tearing at that moment. I have left a little, old man out in the cold rain without even so much as a ham sandwich. Who am I?

Did light come in through that tear? Some. Enough, at least, for me to see that I do not want to be the kind of person who refuses a sandwich to a cold, hungry sixty- year old man. A pretty low bar, I realize, as far as compassion goes, but an improvement for me evidently.

I didn’t go back and fix Mr. Giles a sandwich that day, but I’ve fixed him plenty since then, and soup, and chicken and dumplings. We got him some decent socks for Christmas. We let him use our lawn mower when his broke down. We find him something to do in the yard about once a month – this is more than we need and far less than he wants. I don’t hide from him anymore, although I still want to some times. We’ve asked him not to come so early and he has gotten better about it – though far from perfect. I find myself wondering what is going to happen to him when he gets too old to mow lawns. I don’t really like thinking about that, I certainly don’t know what I’m supposed to do about that, if anything, but there it is. I guess when the light comes in you start to see all kinds of things.