Every April most of us get smitten by the self-improvement bug. No sooner have we put away our winter coats and removed the ice scrapers and snow shovels than we become giddy with the prospect of spring and all the ways we can usher it in better than ever before. And boy do we act!
Once the snow and ice eases its grip, we flood the shopping centers ready to perform errands and plan trips. We want to make up for lost, dormant time from all the winter hangovers. Marketers greedily grin at this phenomenon–ready to pick us off like locusts being swallowed by birds as we come out to celebrate our release from the dark recesses of our homes.
We are bombarded with a variety of impulses: 1) Advertising:
The Home Depot commercials beam in with steady mantras of “Let’s do this” to feed the fire. Lowe’s gets its 2 cents in by saying “Never stop Improving.” (Until we have nervous breakdowns–I wonder?). And probably, worst of all, the advertising generated “SCOTT” character speaking up for Scott’s lawn care product. He is naturally red-headed and has a thick, rich Scottish accent compelling us to “feed, seed, and weed” our lawns with great emotion and feeling. I HATE this Scott guy—and his actor Scotty dog. Just as in aside—doesn’t it seem in this new century that we have to bring every advertising mascot and cartoon character to life and make them flesh and blood just in case we missed the point and needed more clarification–witness the baby and adolescent “MR. CLEAN” who now moves around and interacts with us as a real friend whose entire biography has to be accounted for!
2) PEER PRESSURE:
Ah yes, the worst thought of all; how are we doing compared with our neighbors? (You know who they are right? The people who we wave at occasionally on the way to work, dog walk, or getting the mail).
We look at our yard, with its spotty patches of green grass and bulbs that never came up yet—and think “how do we catch up and make it more presentable?”
Suddenly our vigor turns to dread and an upset stomach while considering how behind we are already. So we take stock: we can’t touch the Jackson’s of course or the other 5 families on the block. Turns out that only the Jenkins, (God bless em) next door, have failed to mow their lawns for their spring debuts like us, so that makes us next to last in the pecking order. All across the street and on the block, front yards are already turning up manicured and trim. Commercial landscaping trucks full of uniformed workers all packed like sardines and pouring out of their truck doors with power tools in hand. And the cash registers all go “KaCHING KaCHING!” with the transactions!
3) GUILT (earning the spring):
As irrational and cartoonish as it may seem sometimes in print, we humans have an exhaustible supply of guilt that can be manipulated in a million advertising directions. Our DNA is hotwired with the need to perform. IT becomes ingrained in grade school (even pre-school now) and is cemented in careers and marriage. Our ability to drift of course and crash our perspective is as notorious as it is well documented.
We become gripped by a fever to earn spring as if it were just another form of Christmas and we have to deserve the seasons!
So the spring becomes nothing more than just another yard stick in an endless stream of Hallmark reminders; ordering us to change our décor to some new holiday event like Easter or St. Patrick’s Day.
OF COURSE, ON THE OTHER HAND…….
NEWS FLASH: This just in: At the time of this publishing, I have recently finished my second lawn moving this past weekend and am securely placed with my league of neighbors! Therefore, I feel a little better about myself compared to my last paragraph. I even found time to do some weed whacking and trimming too. The gas and oil were replenished and the mover ran without stopping until the front and back yards were done. Oh what a relief! I am in the running with the other neighbors now (with exactly the same length of grass height) and ALL IS WELL. And I might be imagining it, but I swear my neighbors are smiling at me more now and making approving nods when we see each other. Invitations to summer barbecue parties may follow.
And I must admit that this entire annual ritual once again proves to me, that despite my best attempts at acting cavalier and nonplussed in April when my lawn mower was still unresponsive and only coughed and sputtered in the garage; that I make a lousy hippy. Once my grass blades got to a certain length, I was no longer believing that it was so cool anymore to let it all go natural as if I were a back to nature advocate from the movie “Hair.”
Certainly there is good discipline and spiritual healing through the cathartic release of immersing ourselves with our landscaping and yardwork. It is indeed a great, liberating feeling to use ones hands and turn the soil.
It’s like that TV ad that Christian Mingle uses to promote taking action to find the right soul mate–
“Sometimes we wait for God to make the next move, when God is saying, ‘It’s your time to act.” Surely as applies to luck in sports, it does behoove us to take advantage of our gifts and skills with a good work ethic, rather than just sit around passively.
Despite our best efforts, we find out soon enough that spring finds a way to raise up every boat in the harbor with its incoming tide and rejuvenates our world with hope and freshness. We are but minor, and hopefully, gratefully humble players. Just like the Who (not the band) down in Whoville discovered in “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” spring comes faithfully and spectacularly without need of input from us.
All that is asked of us is to be receptive fans and to dwell from time to time, on all the great blessings and life lessons learned from the change of season.
The bulbs we forgot we planted, all rise faithfully to the surface and bloom. We are SAVED for one more season (just as we always were before)! And hopefully we have regained our perspective and recovered our humility in realizing yet once again, that we need only enjoy the seasonal transformation and apply its spiritual message in our lives.
In the process, we surprise ourselves again how easily fooled we are. Because all the really important features of springtime were not the yard projects or the mowed lawn or the driven out weeds. It was all those little, miraculous moments of watching the steam rise off the pavement after a sudden rainstorm or watching the helicopter seedlings whirling around as densely as locusts off the trees or the pungent aroma of lilacs and honeysuckle. And yes, transcendentalist/homeowner hybrids everywhere—even that evocative smell of freshly cut grass that brings us back to our childhood and gives us such a feeling of accomplishment after we are done!
But seriously, if it is worries we want to rid ourselves of, we can find no better words to live by then Luke 26-28 which I close with:
Luke 26—28. 26″If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters?27“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 28“But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith!…