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That Tiny Difference. . .Or, I’m Not That Great

August 19, 2020


The pick bounced off the bottom of the small trench I was digging. It was supposed to be dirt. It wasn’t. And it wasn’t a rock. As near as I could tell, it was concrete. And it stretched the entire length of my trench.

I alternated between the pick and a 40 lbs pry bar with a pointed end. I’d raise the bar about a 12 inches, aim it at the bottom of the trench and throw it down. It also clanged off the bottom.

Installing sprinklers wasn’t supposed to be this hard. Actually, I wasn’t installing the sprinklers. That was my neighbor. He gets paid to install sprinkler systems. It’s the perfect time of year for him. He is constantly turning away work, he’s so busy.

He’s doing us a favor. He does a lot of favors for people. This one is taking more time than he, or we expected. My neighbor is great at design. My family and I are the brute force labor. My lovely wife, my two son, my daughters, and of course, myself. We have spent the week digging trenches, digging out sprinkler heads and digging spaces for new filters and new circuits.

My neighbor used paint to mark out the digging we needed to do. And we dutifully dug where he’d pointed us. He then came over and installed the parts of the sprinkler system.

But, here’s the thing. Even after you do the initially digging, there’s plenty of additional work to do. Hard brute work. My neighbor comes by in the evening, after he’s already worked a full day. After all, he’s not getting paid for my lawn. He still needs to make a living.

And when he shows up, I go to work as well. He tells me where he wants a deeper trench, or a wider box, or simply asks me to hold a pipe while he glues it together.

And that’s it. When you consider that he is the one helping me, and giving me the benefit of his expertise, I figured the least I could do was be out there to help. And by help, I mean dig.

Today, it wasn’t so much digging as stonebreaking. Progress was measured in inches. Inches down into the concrete and inches along the trench.

It was hot. Today it was over 104. By the time we started working in my yard it had cooled down to 98. And while there is some shade in my yard, quite a lot, actually, that shade isn’t where I needed the trench. That was full sun.

But, it had to be done. The trench was too shallow to install the new sprinkler heads. There really was no other option. And it’s not like I wasn’t making any progress. It was slow, but it wasn’t at a standstill.

But, something was happening that I hadn’t expected. For some reason my neighbor decided that I was an extraordinarily hard worker. At first I thought he was joking. We’ve been neighbors a long time. We have children the same age. Many of our kids have had the same challenges. We share a similar sense of humor.

I passed off his praise as simple teasing. And then another neighbor walked by and he did it again. My lovely wife came to check our progress and he said it again.

But, I wasn’t doing anything extraordinary. Sure, it was hard, even brutal work, but I did it for a couple of hours. Not like I had to stand out there all day.

It occured to me that my neighbor may not be used to getting much help, or any help. It is a small line that separates the extraordinary and the ordinary.

I was reminded again today, just how small.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2020 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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