Two Men and a Lawnmower
William Shakespeare once wrote, “I am wealthy in my friends.” I agree wholeheartedly. Friendship is a gift we give ourselves. But friends are like houseplants. They need constant care and careful watering. I learned this lesson the hard way one August when a complete stranger moved in next door.
After shutting off my electric lawnmower, I walked across my newly-trimmed yard to welcome him to the neighborhood. “Hi,” I said, extending my hand. “Welcome here. If you need anything, I’m your guy.”
His name was Vance, and he thanked me. “I love to borrow stuff,” he said with a grin, “food especially, but I won’t be borrowing your lawnmower. Electric lawnmowers just don’t cut it. I have a gas-powered lawnmower, you know? It’s a man’s lawnmower. Wide swaths. You should see it.” Then he pointed at my little orange and black model, chuckled and shook his head. “Electric lawnmowers are for wimps,” he said. I tried my best to laugh past his unusual humor, but one week later I wasn’t laughing. One week later my lawnmower died
His gas-powered lawnmower cut the grass in record time. And one week later when it came time to borrow it again, I rang Vance’s doorbell. No one was home on this sunny Saturday, but I knew we were good friends by now. So I went to his backyard, slid the mower from its rightful spot and began trimming my grass.
For some reason I was in a hurry that day, so when I came to a large stump which protruded two inches from the ground, I thought I would conserve time by going over it rather than around it. This was a gas-powered lawnmower, I reasoned. It would clear The Stump without a problem. I was wrong. BAAANG! The mower stopped dead, never to start again. Now I am not a mechanically minded person. But I like examining things that are broken. I turned the mower over. Oil was leaking from the undercarriage. The crankshaft was bent in half. The pull-start mechanism would not even budge.
My father raised me well. “Son,” he often told me when I was a boy, “when you borrow something, always return it.” So I carefully pushed the lawnmower into the exact spot from which it was taken.
Then I left on a 5-day business trip.
Upon my return, Vance was waiting. In fact, as I pulled into the driveway he was standing nearby, a rather serious expression etched on his face.
“Hi Vance!” I said, warmly
“Do you have a flashlight?” he asked.
I did. It was growing dark as Vance motioned me toward the backyard. He turned on the flashlight and we followed its beam to The Stump. Ketchup was poured over it, and on the grass, sprayed in white paint was the outline of a lawnmower. Surrounding this was a “Police Line Do Not Cross” yellow ribbon.
“We have a suspect,” said Vance, smiling at last.
Then he took me to the garden, where—I kid you not—handlebars protruded from a fresh mound of earth. Taped to a large gray brick was a white sheet of paper etched with these words:
Here lies Mr. Mower.
A life so quickly taken,
By a hand so quick to take
He will never mow
What life had
In the grass ahead of him.
Twelve years have passed since that August night. And today my best friend on earth is a neighbor named Vance. It’s not hard to understand why. You see, if I need some advice, a good laugh, or someone to listen, I call Vance. For one thing, Vance knows how to practice the fine art of forgiveness. He also knows what every good friend knows: If you expect perfection from people, your whole life will be a series of disappointments, grumblings, and complaints. But if you lower your expectations a little and accept people as the imperfect creatures that all of us are, you just may find yourself a lifelong friend. Whenever I read Proverbs 17:9 I think of Vance: “Disregarding another person’s faults preserves love, telling about them separates close friends.” Ephesians 4:2-3 says, “Be humble and gentle, be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.”
The story doesn’t end there. After the death of Vance’s blue lawnmower, his wife Sherri dropped into a hardware store and entered their name in a draw for a nice new one. And—you guessed it—she won.
Today, all because of me, they have a shiny red lawnmower in their backyard. I haven’t tried borrowing it yet.
But I do keep reminding Vance just how lucky he is to have me for a friend.