Ken’s question left me a little flummoxed. Finish fixing my bathroom? There was nothing left to do. In fact, Norris had already done far, far more than expected. What more could he and Ken possibly do?
Background: The Roy 14th ward (local Mormon congregation) had an auction to finance the ward Christmas fund. Members were to donate good and/or services to be auctioned and then buy goods and/or services at the same auction (generally not the same good and/or services they donated though there was no rule forbidding it). All proceeds were used to provide Christmas gifts for less fortunate families in the neighborhood.
For years (decades actually) my bathroom floor was disastrous; recently it became disgusting and disastrous. Most of the tiles were broken; if one walked across it with bare feet (a fairly frequent experience in bathrooms in North America) pieces of tile would stick to one’s feet. One would have to stop, peel the tile piece from the bare skin, and replace it, like a jigsaw puzzle, into the shattered mosaic we used as a bathroom floor. The wood supported the mosaic was warped and water-stained. The grout between the tiles had long since disappeared. The hole cut in the tiles surrounding the toilet was square and the toilet stand round so there were sections of exposed underwood surrounding the toilet. (There are men in the house who use the toilet…..Need I say more?) In short, we were long past due for a new bathroom floor.
As his contribution to the auction, Norris Call, a talented craftsman, donated a new bathroom floor; he would provide the labor and expertise, the buyer would provide the materials. I jumped on the opportunity like an alfalfa bale on a hay wagon; the new bathroom floor would be mine. And it was.
Norris came the Friday before Christmas and spent the day ripping out the old floor and installing the new. He put in a new sub-floor and installed a donated (I am still a little suspicious of this….but he assures me that he was not the one who donated it) piece of linoleum. He also put in new, crown moulding baseboards (“They were just extras I had laying around the shop,” he told me) AND he patched a hole in the wall. OH MY LANDS!! Norris had already gone the extra mile and the extra baseboards and the extra wall patch. What more could he and Ken possibly do to finish my bathroom?
“Well,” said Ken, in answer to that question, “we have a new vanity here that needs installing and we were wondering if today or tomorrow would be the best time to install it?”
Oh my lands! OH MY LANDS AGAIN!!! The old vanity, which Norris had faithfully removed to lay the floor and carefully reinstalled when the floor was finished, was indeed less than ideal. Water-stained, warped, and well past its prime, it was not pretty but it was functional. Norris had suggested replacing it and I had told him I’d consider it. I had considered it and decided it was not dead yet; that we could probably coax another five or so years out of it. Back into the bathroom it went.
And back out of the bathroom it came, thanks to Ken and Norris who came over Monday morning and put a brand new, shiny white vanity onto my brand new, hole-less linoleum floor next to my brand new, white crown moulding alongside the brand, new inconspicuous patch on my wall. Every time I walk by the bathroom (even now, two weeks later), I feel a thrill of joy; I joy in the new bathroom and I joy in the love of the good men who put it there.
Later that same Monday I noticed that Janika’s goat was out. Several months ago I rather reluctantly (very reluctantly actually) agreed to let the goat stay in our pasture over the winter. For lots of reasons (most of which are not very charitable) I am not comfortable having someone else’s animal on my place. “Arg,” thought I, “the blasted goat is out.”
Seeing it wander into my hay barn motivated me to action; I put on my boots and coat and put the goat back into its place which, incidentally, was no small task. It involved opening two heavy gates, neither of which swing freely, and convincing six sheep not to exit one pasture while persuading one goat to enter another. I managed to accomplish the task, removed what I thought was the goat’s escape route and returned to the house.
In less than five minutes the goat was back in my hay barn.
My initial reaction was irritation and then came an idea…... “Ah ha,” thought I, “here is my chance to get rid of this goat! I cannot have an animal on my place what will not stay inside the fence; free access to the hay in my barn is not an option.” I would tell the owners they had to take the goat back; clearly a free roaming goat would not work….It could bloat on the hay, it could wander in the road…..For the goat’s sake, it would have to go.
Almost gleefully, I planned the speech in my head. Finally I would be goat-free!
And then I looked at the bathroom…….
Ken and Norris had helped me, so, SO much; much, much more than I deserved. How could I so casually, even callously refuse to help Janika?
Sighing, I put on my coat and boots AGAIN and headed out to the shed to retrieve the fencing tools. I would have to find the hole in the fence and fix it and then put the escaping creature back where it belonged. I really had no other ethical choice.
This is where the story gets good. God stepped in.
As I was stepping out of the shed, carrying the fencing tools, Janika arrived to feed her goat. In theory Janika feeds and waters the goat every day. I say “in theory” not because I don’t believe she does it but because I never see her. She generally comes when I am not home; only rarely, RARELY do our paths cross but that day, at the very moment when I emerged from the shed, carrying the tools needed to fix the fence for her goat, she arrived.
Her arrival was a blessing on multiple fronts, the least of which was that now there was someone to help me fix the fence. It was really, REALLY nice to have help pounding in the post, securing the wires, and manning the gates. Her presence also connected us. She is naturally reticent and I believe it was very good for her to witness that I was willingly (and for all appearances cheerfully) working to help her and her beloved goat. Finally, and most importantly, her arrival softened my heart. I recognized the tender mercy, my angst about the goat dissipated, and the cheerfulness I exhibited was authentic, not feigned. I found myself truly glad to be in a position to help her out.
Oh the Lord is good! So, SO good. He teaches us through ancient parables (Matthew 18:21-35) and modern ones (this story). Blessedly the ancient parables help us recognize the lessons in the modern ones and aid us in avoiding making the described mistakes.
I am increasingly aware of and grateful for the Lord’s ability to change our hearts, to remove hard feelings, to eliminate baseness and ugliness and selfishness and to replace them with love and hope and charity. So often He does not merely help us cope with or overcome or deal with crap in our characters; He culls it, carries it off, carts it away. Gone. And then fills void with righteous desires; we do not become perfect but our wants are good. And, in the end, we all get what we really want. (Alma 41:3-5).
I know the “mighty change” described by King Benjamin’s people is real; that if we let Him, if we sincerely invite Him, the Lord will effect a mighty change in our hearts as well and we, like King Benjamin’s people, will have “no more disposition to do evil; but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2). This is the power of God. He is GOOD!!!!!
P.S. It looks like I am back to preaching…..!