I just went for a walk around my neighborhood, and up the street there was an old man laying in his front yard listening to the radio and pulling weeds by hand. He greeted me and joked about having a weeding job for me (at least I think it was a joke). Then he said, “Keep an eye on that patch,” pointing to a patch of dirt in his yard about a foot in diameter. “If that patch doesn’t have weedless grass in the spring, then I’m just wasting my time.” I smiled and agreed to keep an eye on it, assuring him that I didn’t think he was wasting his time.
But it got me thinking. What if there is no grass in the spring? What if it grows back with weeds, which, more likely than not, is what will happen. Does that mean the beautiful sunny day he spent working outside was wasted? Absolutely not! At the end of today, he will have a sense of accomplishment, not to mention a lot of fresh air. What happens 9 months from now won’t change that. If his efforts turn out to be a failure, does that mean he shouldn’t have tried in the first place? That it was a waste? On the contrary, he should learn from his first effort and get out there and try again.
This is important to me right now, since I’m spending most of my time trying to do two things: raise my kids and start a business. The idea of parenting being a waste of time is laughable, though there are individual moments when I wonder whether what I am doing matters. But what if my business fails (as many do)? At times, both of these things feel like an endless field of weeds. I work hard pulling weeds, planting seeds, and praying for rain. And inevitably more weeds pop up. And I do the work not because I expect to have a perfect lawn, but because I believe that each small success along the way makes a difference.
Trying to make the world a better place, one child, one business, or one patch of grass at a time is never a waste.