the worth of a less impressive answer

I have decided that gardening is a hobby that may cause the obsessive-compulsive part of me to run into a bit of trouble. I didn’t want to hire a gardener just to trim the shrubs and the bougainvillea gone wild in the front of our home. So I grabbed the shears, rolled up my sleeves, and went at it. Suddenly, every stray branch and every slightly awkward stem became ridiculously obvious. I could not stop, despite the sun beating down on me and the milk from newly cut stems covering me with stickiness. I am surprised there is anything beyond a stump left standing after all the trimming I did.

My parents came for a visit not too long after I finished. I apologized that I was worn out from doing a whole lot of yardwork. My mom wanted to see what I had done, but I had nothing special to show for all my hard work. She hadn’t seen how scraggly the shrubs were before I had attacked them. And so to her, things were “just as they ought to be,” nothing more. Just a bunch of trimmed shrubs.

Maintenance is that way. People ask what I do on my days off from work, and I feel so busy but I struggle to find an answer. Or perhaps a more honest statement is that I struggle to find an answer that sounds impressive. So much of my time is spent simply maintaining. Laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping, cooking, organizing. Just maintaining.

But I think there is something about maintenance that reflects, or at least helps to cultivate, the virtue of faithfulness. Sticking to something not because you always love to do it, but because it’s important to be done. Cleaning house because it is a space that has, in a sense, been entrusted to me. For my friends who are new parents, changing diapers over and over again because that humble, humbling maintenance is sometimes all that separates a good parent from a dangerously neglectful parent. The baby who is well-cared for will still cry, but underneath, that baby’s butt is as clean and healthy as can be. It’s not anything special to show for all that hard work. But it matters. It’s important. We simply do not realize how valuable maintenance is until it is no more.

Let us then not despite the drudgery and humbleness of everyday maintenance. And perhaps more significantly, let us not despise ourselves when that is all we have given ourselves to for a day. It matters.

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1 thought on “the worth of a less impressive answer

  1. i agree, it totally does matter! i feel like that’s what homemakers struggle with. and people who are unemployed, like i was, for a time. i remember thinking, “simply maintaining a home is SO MUCH WORK!”

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