It’s Monday around 5PM, and after teaching a full day of school, I am exhausted. With bits of the weekend still lingering on my mind, I make my way into the kitchen to begin prepping my breakfast and lunch shakes for tomorrow.
As I am washing strawberries (that are terribly expensive out of season, but I want them), a leaf blower sounds in the distance. Yoga Pandora plays softly in the background as I decompress from the day.
As I turn to dry my dishes on the seashell dish towel (I will not let go of summer), out of the corner of my eye, I see a flash of a white t-shirt heading down our back steps from off of our deck. I frown but don’t feel at all out of sorts, knowing it is most likely Kern, our handy next-door neighbor.
However, for good measure, I tilt and twist my body by the window so that I can see out into their backyard—just enough so that if it’s not Kern, I’m still hidden. (Come on. I’m not Wonder Woman.) Kern, wearing a white shirt, is now in his backyard, tending to his own lawn. I exhale a small sigh of relief, shrug, and look out at our deck, realizing that he has used the leaf blower to clear the fall leaves that have slightly begun to accumulate.
I smile and go back to the dishes, and after a short time, hear the leaf blower again. When I am finished prepping my food (priorities), I dry my hands and grab a pile of plastic bags to throw into the recycling bin so that I can thank Kern.
Walking down the steps, I see that the deck looks crisp and clean. It even looks like a new row of bricks has been added to the narrow pathway.
“Hey, Kern!” I say cheerfully as I head down the steps.
“Hey, you!” he says, a cigarette dangling from his hand.
“Thanks so much for clearing this off! You’re the best!” I say, tossing the plastic bags into the recycling.
“Hey, no problem,” he says, and we join at the spot where our lawns meet. “I actually wanted to clear the walnuts off. Not safe.”
I realize, in addition to the leaves, the walnuts are gone from our deck.
“Oh my gosh, Kern!” I say, my voice rising. “Thank you!”
“Yeah, awhile back—now, grant it, I had had a few beers—” he begins.
I flick my hand in the air, grinning. “Pssh, I’m sure that had nothing to do with it.”
He smiles and continues, “I was coming down my steps and stepped on a walnut, fell back, and cracked two of my ribs.”
My eyes widen. “Oh, no!” I say as my hands fly to my head. “Ouch!”
Kern, who broke his shoulder falling from his tree while doing yard work last summer, simply waves his hand.
He then points to the row of bricks coming down from the steps. “I put in a new line of bricks,” he says.
Again, my eyes widen. Does this man know how awesome he is? “I was wondering who did that!” I say, indicating I thought maybe our landlord had come and put them in.
He shrugs. “The bricks were sitting off to the side.”
“Actually, I’m glad you put them in because every time I walk over them I get nervous I’m going to trip.”
Kern, recovering from injuries of his own, and I, recovering from a broken foot, have decided we are not leaving the house the first week of July, as that is when we both were injured, and therefore, this line of bricks is a fantastic way to avoid another pressing catastrophe.
We shoot the breeze for a while before going our separate ways. I thank him again and come back inside to where Yoga Pandora is still playing. I begin prepping chicken for dinner to the gentle rhythm of the music.
Today, happiness is being exhausted. Happiness is going through the motions of life, tiredly prepping meals while my neighbor clears the walnuts from our deck and installs a new line of bricks on the ground out of the kindness of his heart. Today, happiness is recognizing the good in others.