I've got a friend who never got the message.
I met Sharon years ago when she and her talented husband and their girls started coming to our church. They are extremely successful and artistic and very hip. The live with horses, dogs, cats, chickens, and birds in a "to die for" home that they built on about 2 acres not far from our house. She is one of those natural beauties - healthy and athletic looking with a winning smile and a loud infectious laugh. She gets really excited when she talks. No. I mean really. Her eyes widen and her arms flap, her face lights up with a huge smile and she talks fast and purposefully, emphatically about the things she loves and wants to do. And like a five year old kid who never got "the message", she lives with the belief that if she can dream it, she can do it.
Sharon gets an idea for something and she's off - like a sprint runner. If you try to stop her or tell her she can't, she furrows her brow and argues with you. She is rarely deterred. I have never met anyone quite like her. When I first met her, I have to say, I thought there might be something a little wrong with her. When I realized that no, she was just "like that", I was fully intimidated by her.
When we went to Africa on a mission trip in 2005, Sharon and her family came too. We shared accommodations. She and her husband were the first ones up every morning and she was on fire to accomplish the objectives that had been laid out, and then some. I just stayed out of her way. She was like a whirling dervish and I had the feeling that I could get knocked down if I stood too close. Sometimes just thinking about what she's up to is exhausting.
In truth, for a very long time, while I always admired her, she was soooooo different from me I could not imagine why she would want to be friends with me. She is so cool. I am so dry. She is all "go, go, go", "do, do, do". I'm all "do you have a cushion for this chair?" I am a glass half-empty person. She is full glass spilling over. She is a tornado. I am an exhale.
So anyway, Sharon, as it turns out, does all her own landscaping and gardening, and decorating. And some time ago, when I was complaining about our impossible yard, she offered to take a look at it and help. I thought, well okay. Someday. Then, last Friday (a mere 5 days ago!), we were both at the church dropping off our kids for a youth group retreat and we stood outside in the parking lot and chatted for a while. I have no idea how the subject of my landscaping (or lack thereof) came up again but suddenly Sharon says "do you want me to come over now and take a look at it?" And I thought to myself: "oh no, I don't really want you to because then I have to have to explain to you why we can't do this or why we can't afford this and I know you will try to convince me that I am wrong". So naturally, I said: "Sure!" So off we went, Sharon following me in my car because she had never been here (oh my gosh, really? How horrifying!) and I stopped in front of the house. And she saw our house - the eyesore of the street - and I think she was horrified too. She took a few minutes to take it all in and then she started talking with her hands: "you need to flatten that out and put a tree there", "you need to dig all that out and put some flowers and shrubs in there". I suggested we needed to take out this huge, overgrown, un-managed 10 foot bush and she looked at me (with furrowed brow) and screamed: "Nooooooooo!" Then she smiled and said: "Why would you do that? That's a beautiful tree!"
"Yes. You just need to cut it back"
"Well, you'll have to show me because I can't see it at all".
And we went around the house and for the next half hour she excitedly "visioned" our yard. And then, the moment came. I had to tell her "no".
"This is really exciting Sharon but we really don't have the skills for this and we absolutely can't afford it right now".
"But Valri! This will hardly cost anything. We'll use what you have and I'll bring my 'guy' over and we can do this really fast". (Her 'guy' is this master-of-all-trades, day worker who is better than reasonable.) "I'll bring him over Monday". Now you need to know that right now, in addition to building a new studio for her husband Tim, she is getting her own two acres worked over and ready for the annual garden tour that our city sponsors. She's even being featured in the local paper. But Monday came and she and her 'guy' (Dave) were here in the morning. And we all got assignments and in 5 hours a tremendous amount had been accomplished and it all started to look - dare I say it - better. In fact, promising. In fact, it was quite impossible what got done. And to give you an idea of just how bad it was, neighbors we don't talk to honked their horns as they passed by or waved or smiled as they saw me pruning back the unruly 10 foot bush. And Sharon starts envisioning "areas" for benches and Adirondack chairs and potted plants. And she starts talking about rock she has left over from her own projects and benches she is getting rid of and suddenly, I am getting all these fabulous remnants - for free.
Today I went to her house and took a look at all the stuff she is getting rid of and then we filled her truck and came back to my house and unloaded and then - it was decided that I need to paint my house. So off to Home Depot we went, to pick out the colors. Because we are going to do it ourselves and it will hardly cost anything and we can have her "guy" and we can get it done in a couple of days. And I actually believe her.
And all the while, I am watching this woman, driving her truck from her house, to my house, to the nursery, to Home Depot, to the Salvation Army, to eat, to pick up the girls at school, to feed the horses, to drive someone else home, to run unending errands, and back to my house to survey the progress and then put her gloves on and dig in herself. And I am suddenly contemplating the relativity of time. Because time, as we know it, stops for Sharon. Because it is absolutely IMPOSSIBLE that she could get what she gets done in anything that resembles the hours we have to work with in a day. And I am completely astounded. But we have caught her enthusiasm and suddenly we are thinking in terms of "can" and "will" and Bob and I are getting really excited and we're diving into it like we had her energy. And suddenly we find ourselves tremendously uplifted at a time when we are low from experiencing unemployment and economic hardship. And my guess is that Sharon knew that getting excited about something (our yard) was exactly what we needed.
So I am moved. And speechless. Because I cannot believe that someone would put themself out and tackle such a monumental project, invest themself in our life when there is so much going on in their own, just because. Just because you are a friend and "that's what friends do". And the entire family is like that. And I am watching and taking in what it means to give - not your money (which is easy) but yourself (much harder). And I think I can take a lesson from this. I think I'm supposed to take a lesson from this.
And now I'm sore. And I'm tired. And I know that hanging on to Sharon the Tornado is going to make me dizzy - but I will be better for it. And eternally thankful as well. And while I cannot possibly repay her, she is surely storing treasure in heaven.