In the first year of our marriage, the lawn mower Jim bought years before we met broke. We decided—in a quick decision that would turn into what appears to be a lifelong commitment—to hire someone to mow the lawn while we got the mower repaired. At this point in our relationship, we did not have an assortment of people we knew to call on for services. So, when we needed a plumber, Jim called his parents to get their plumber’s number. When we needed an electrician, again, Jim called his parents. So naturally, when our mower crapped out, Jim picked up the phone and called his father, who gave him the name of a man in their church who was known to mow lawns on the side.
When Jim told me he would be calling this man, I asked what we knew about him. Jim shrugged and said, “All my dad said is that he’s really religious.” My eyes widened at this because if my father- or mother-in-law believed someone was “really religious,” that was truly saying something.
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“Beats me,” Jim said. “I just found that funny for my dad to call someone else really religious.”
“Your parents are as religious as it gets, Jim.”
“That’s what makes it funny.”
“Okay, so he’s religious,” I said. “And he mows?”
“Apparently he does it on the weekends to help pay for his kids’ college.”
And with no more knowledge than that, Jim called Tom, the overly religious father of co-eds, to schedule a time for him to mow our lawn.
The day Tom arrived, early one Saturday morning, Jim was out having the oil in his car changed. I was drinking coffee and working on my laptop in the kitchen when I saw Tom’s white truck and mowing trailer pull into our driveway. I peered out the front windows to get a look at the religious zealot and found him to be a very average looking middle-aged man. I went back to my coffee. After ten minutes, I became aware of the silence outside. Why hadn’t the mower started? I cinched my robe tighter and crept back into the living room for another peek out the window.
And there I saw Tom, his hands clasped together in front of his chest, his head bowed, his eyes closed. I grabbed my phone and called Jim.
“Babe, Tom is here…” I said when he picked up.
“Oh good! How’s the yard look?”
“Um, well, he’s not mowing the lawn.”
“Oh. Wait, what?”
“No, Jim, he’s praying over our lawn.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t know. He literally has his hands in prayer pose, his head is bent and his eyes are closed!”
“That makes no sense.”
“Your dad said he was religious! Does that mean he prays over the lawn before he mows it?”
“Meg, that’s ridiculous.”
“Jim. I’m literally looking at the man right now with my own eyes. He’s standing in our driveway praying!”
“Okay, so let him pray.”
“Don’t make me sound judgy! I’m just, I don’t know, uncomfortable!”
“Oh come on. You were raised Methodist.”
“Yeah, but like PDA, we kept our praying private! We’d never make out, or pray, in broad daylight!”
“I’m just saying, if he does a good job on the lawn, who cares if he prays over it first?”
“Yeah…okay…I guess that’s true…”
“Look, my car is almost done and then I’ll be home. If he’s still praying at that point, I’ll say something.”
And with that I hung up, watched Tom pray for a few more minutes, then went back into the kitchen to type away and drink my coffee. By the time Jim got home, Tom was gone, but the yard remained unmowed. I walked into the living room to greet Jim, who had a knowing grin on his face.
“What?” I asked. “Wait, where’s Tom?” I said, peering over Jim’s shoulder and out the window, only just realizing he had left.
“He called me a few minutes ago.”
“To talk to you about Jesus?”
“No,” Jim said with a wide smile. “He said he couldn’t remember the combination to the lock on his trailer.”
“Okay…” I said, not understanding.
“And without the combination, he couldn’t get his mower out.”
“So he’s gone home to grab the notecard with the combination on it, and he’ll be back this afternoon to do the job.”
“And just so you know,” Jim said with a glint in his eye, “Tom said he stood in our driveway for ten minutes with his eyes closed trying to concentrate hard enough to remember the combination.”
I often wonder when exactly our opinions about others take shape. Some heavily weight the first impression. Others claim they get better with age. But there are so many opinions formed about a person (or a restaurant, a product, a service, etc.) before ever meeting (or experiencing) them. My children, for example, were born into the world with numerous people predisposed to love them. How helpful was it for them to have people biased toward liking them? How harmful is it when a child doesn’t? I use the accountant my sister uses, my parents bought the same model of car that I drive, and after more than a decade of incessantly hearing about Star Wars, I’m starting to think it has merit. Point is, we are all predisposed to some (or many) opinions before we ever have a chance to form our own. Which is to say, our minds are not our own. Our minds are shared.
All I know is that Tom mowed our lawn for the entire decade Jim and I lived in our first house (yeah, we didn’t even really try to get that mower fixed) and our lawn was the envy of our neighbors.
But what’s more: Tom often mowed our lawn on Sunday mornings.
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