If God had put me in charge of the great outdoors, it would not be a pretty sight. Because the truth is, I have tried and failed at growing many things.
So about two years ago I gave it up. I gave it all to Glen. Little did I know then how much I’d learn from this man.
Glen takes care of our yard. He’s not quite a landscaper, not quite a gardener. He’s just a guy who makes his living working on yards.
I spotted him in my parents’ neighborhood years back. It is not a designated senior neighborhood, but it’s a small, tight knit group of older folks who look out for one another. Everyone who lives there is over age 60, and almost all of them contract with Glen to handle their yard work.
One day, after planting and killing yet another hydrangea, I drove to my parents house, walked right up to Glen and told him I needed help with my yard for an upcoming party. And that was it: the party came and went, but two years later Glen is still mowing our grass, planting flowers and trimming our shrubs. In that time I’ve come to know this man. I’ve learned a great deal from him. Not about gardening (there’s no help for my brown thumb), but about life.
It’s amazing what we can learn from those around us. But in this social-media-saturated, never-be-bored with instant-access-to-entertainment-world we live in, lessons from the sidelines are easy to miss. So I’m glad that over the years I’ve taken time to stop and chat with Glen. Today I want to share what he’s taught me.
1-Love what you do and you’ll be happy. Glen drives a regular pick-up truck, it’s not wrapped and there is no logo on the side panel. He does not advertise, his business comes word of mouth. If I happen to be home when he’s here, he will chat with me about our yard. He’ll point out how our grass is coming along, how our holly bushes survived the winter, how the shrubs in our backyard are thriving. I think he cares more about our yard then we do. But isn’t that how it is when you love what you do? Work is not just work, it’s also pleasure.
2-Don’t waste time on meaningless activities. Recently I had to show Glen where our cable wires were buried in order for him to complete his work. It was then I learned he doesn’t own a computer. As I was saying I couldn’t live without the Internet, Glen was saying he doesn’t bother with it. WOW. This seems unheard of to me; I can’t imagine how out of touch he must be. But then I thought about what I do when I’m on my computer. Outside of work, most of my time spent there is of little value. What are we missing out on when we give our time to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram? The answer? A lot.
3-Value People, not things. I don’t know much about Glen’s personal life, but I know he values people. He works with his son and he knows all his clients by name. And I saw the sadness in his eyes when I had to tell him my mom passed away. I’ll never forget what he once said to me, “It’s the worst part of my job,” he sighed, “When I get to know people and then they pass away, or have health troubles, it’s terrible.” Something tells me Glen isn’t worried about losing a client so much as he is saddened by the loss of another human being. Putting people first, work second; it’s a good reminder for us all.
4-Take Time Off. In the spring, summer and fall, we see a lot of Glen. He’ll stop by to seed or check on plants or mow the grass. But every winter he heads south and enjoys some well-deserved time off. Time that I’m sure renews him, gets him ready for the hard work that awaits in the coming months. A recent article on ABC News states Americans work more and take less vacation than anyone in the industrialized world. The question is, why? Do we really want to put that accomplishment on our tombstone? We too need to rest.
I don’t know Glen all that well. I don’t know where he’s from or where he went to school or what his favorite sports teams are, but I do know a lot about his character. I must say it makes me wish I were more of a gardener.