Monday, June 20, 2011

Old School

When I bought my home last year and took on the responsibilities thereof, I decided I wanted to find a old-fashioned, reel push-mower for the lawn. My mother, a veritable magician when it comes to second-hand shopping, found one at an estate sale a block away from my new home, and the owner of the antique machine was shocked that anyone was purchasing it. I think she paid ten bucks for it.

The old contraption always elicits a reaction from passersby:

“You need to get a power mower!” is a common reaction, which always makes me feel insulted.

“You need help with that?” one fellow asked when I was nearly done mowing one Saturday. Clearly, I don’t.

“That’s the old school!” brings out a smile on my sweaty face.

One neighbor flexed her biceps as she passed, and I responded by thumping my chest. Yes, I am strong!

“Can I try?” children always ask, which gives me a short break whether I want one or not, but does not save me any of the work.

But one interesting reaction this past weekend came from a neighbor who has a push-mower herself. “Wow, that one is pretty heavy-duty! Ours has a hard time handling this grass. Look how low it cuts too!”

It was an interesting reaction because it made me look differently and my ten-dollar estate-sale find. Suddenly, it went from a useless item from someone’s basement to a gem of push-mowers, a vestige from a time when people built machines to handle real work, machines that last.

It was especially interesting because it made me react differently to the next comment, made by old Harold who comes by from time to time asking if he can earn a few bucks with odd jobs. “That cuts really good!” he exclaimed. “Can I borrow it when you’re done?”

Things walk off in the neighborhood. In my first few days here, I had already had my little garden statue of St. Patrick stolen from my front yard (who steals statues of saints?!). I don’t know what antique-gems-of-push-mowers go for at pawn shops, but suddenly, by his mere proximity to my discovery of the merits of my specimen, Harold seemed like just the type to try to find out.

Nevertheless, when my doorbell rang a couple hours later and Harold appeared, asking if he could borrow my mower, I reluctantly handed it over, saying a quick prayer that I would see it again. I knew that the fact that he was poor was no reason to suspect vice of the old man, and I felt a little ashamed of myself for being worried nonetheless.

While I waited, I got back to my reading:
He that sheweth mercy, lendeth to his neighbour: and he that is stronger in hand, keepeth the commandments. Lend to thy neighbour in the time of his need, and pay thou thy neighbour again in due time. Reap thy word, and deal faithfully with him: and thou shalt always find that which is necessary for thee.

Many have looked upon a thing lent as a thing found, and have given trouble to them that helped them. Till they receive, they kiss the hands of the lender, and in promises they humble their voice: But when they should repay, they will ask time, and will return tedious and murmuring words, and will complain of the time: And if he be able to pay, he will stand off, he will scarce pay one half, and will count it as if he had found it: But if not, he will defraud him of his money, and he shall get him for an enemy without cause: And he will pay him with reproaches and curses, and instead of honour and good turn will repay him injuries. Many have refused to lend, not out of wickedness, but they were afraid to be defrauded without cause.

But yet towards the poor be thou more hearty, and delay not to shew him mercy. Help the poor because of the commandment: and send him not away empty handed because of his poverty. Lose thy money for thy brother and thy friend: and hide it not under a stone to be lost. Place thy treasure in the commandments of the Most High, and it shall bring thee more profit than gold.
-Ecclesiasticus 29:1-14
Harold did come back with the mower within half an hour. By that time I felt sufficiently humbled for having been hesitant to lend to my neighbor in the time of his need, for being tempted to send him away empty handed because of his poverty. After all, I knew that the fear of losing the thing lent was more old-school than my mower itself, and was taken into account when we were commanded to lend nevertheless. After all, I was reminded, I shall always find what is necessary for me.

I pray I become more willing to lose my money for my brother and friend, and that I learn to place my treasure in the commands of the Most High. In the mean time, I’m glad to get the mower back.

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