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Posts Tagged ‘the kindness of strangers’

img_0881-smaller2Last year, my husband began the long processs of converting our sixteen by thirty-two foot inground pool into a pond. He’s an ambitious, highly creative type, and it was one of three or four projects he had on the go at the time. It turned out to be a challenge in ways we never anticipated.

He drained the pool then he cut its metal walls down to half their height. He built a replica of a mill, complete with board and batten, and next to it, a water wheel, lovingly crafted to perfect scale. Using the old pool pump for power, he planned the flow of water. When completed, the pump would push water up and over the wheel, causing it to turn, and creating a gentle waterfall at one end of the pond.

This year, we planned to fill some of the old pool with dirt so that the pond would be a more manageable size. But dirt, is, well, anything but “dirt cheap,” and for a while now, we’ve been weathering a serious downturn in our finances. My husband’s been a victim of the snowballing automotive sector disaster, and the past five years have been challenging. But he’s an optimist. He was convinced that living out in the country, he would sooner or later find a road crew wanting to get rid of dirt rather than drive it all the way back to the dump.

He didn’t need to wait long. In June of this year, he made arrangements with a crew to drop dirt into our driveway. He asked for two or three loads. The crew chief said “How about four?” My husband’s first thought was “Sure. More can only be better.” You can guess the rest.

Unfortunately, he was busy when they finally came to make their delivery. If he’d been watching, he could have stopped them, but they were gone before he could react. Stretching the entire width of our double driveway, for a good seventy-five feet, were five loads of dirt, each at least four feet deep.

I’m sure the road crew must have laughed all the way home.

Now came the job of trying to move the dirt, which turned out to be more clay and asphalt than anything else. It would need to go from the driveway, around the side of the house and several trees, and into the “soon-to-be” pond, a distance of probably a hundred and fifty feet.

If the weather had been perfect all summer, it would have been different. If my two sons were living at home and able to help, it may have even been possible. But it rained nearly every night, and the sun baked the clay dry each day. It soon became nearly as hard as rock. And then, one month later, my husband, working as a renovator while out of his regular employment, had an accident. He fell from a ladder. There’s more. He fell from the top rung of a ladder while stretching up to do something much higher. Wait. I’m not done. The ladder was on top of a fourteen feet scaffold.

Miraculously, he landed on his feet, and although he had no serious injuries, soft tissue damage in one foot made walking difficult. The dirt in our driveway sat and sat, much like a great crusty old dragon, mocking us. It was, to say the least, an embarassment.

After all, he’d asked the road crew for the dirt to save money. Now, we were doubly short of cash because not only was he was injured and unable to work as much, but we’d have to pay someone to come in and move the mess. In the end, the irony is that it would have been cheaper to order and pay for dirt from a landscaper!

I was not amused, and my husband spent a lot of time cursing his lack of attention as the road crew dumped the gigantic load. September came, and October, and the dirt remained there. Then one afternoon a stranger came to our door. “Do you want all of that dirt?” he asked. I rolled my eyes and explained the situation to him. ‘I don’t want the dirt for myself,” he said, “but I’ve been driving by here all summer, and every time I pass I look at the dirt and think that the guy who lives here must not be able to move it. No one could do it by himnself.”  

Then he told me that he and his family were renting a home at the next crossroad, and that he had use of his neighbour’s tractor. If we would tell him where we wanted the dirt, he’d move it for us.

I was flabbergasted.

And so it began. Over the next two weeks, he came several times. He always brought his little girl with him. She and I chatted while he scooped the rock-hard clay up and manoevred his way around the willow and spruce trees to the backyard pond. I told her that her father was very kind to help us this way. Honest as only kids can be, she answered, ” Yeah, but I think he really just likes to drive that big tractor.”

A few times, he came only to learn that the ground was too wet and soft. Immediately, the tractor’s wheels would sink and make deep ruts. He’d leave and come back again a day or two later, when it was drier. We’d be out running errands, and return to discover he’d cleared even more away.

Through it all, he never stopped smiling.

If he had been so kind at any ordinary time in our lives, we would have been touched. But coming at a time when our spirits have been low and we’ve often felt isolated by employment and financial woes, his kindness held even greater importance for us. It reminded us that most people are inherently good; that a simple unexpected kindness can mean more than any material offering. It assured us that it was alright to feel humbled, to be the one graciously receiving a stranger’s offering rather than always being the ones to give.

He likely had no idea that his gesture held such significance for us. We, in turn, gave a card of thanks, carefully worded, and in it, a gift certificate for dinner. Both pale in comparison to the gratitude we felt at a stranger’s unexpected kindness.

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