As I peered over the side yard, into the dog run, I realized that I had made a huge mistake. What seemed like only yesterday, the memories of erecting a new deck which would enclose my large dogs brought joy to my heart. Now, looking upon the deteriorated base, holes, and piled up leaves brought only frustration. Not only had the babies who once frequented the enclosure long ago crossed the rainbow bridge, but its intended use had become merely a memory from times past. As our family found a new use for the area, it was my time to shine as I prepared it for our newest family members, a flock of chickens, which would surely bring both joy and frustration to our family.
What I hadn’t realized or truly gave much thought to was the fact that when we neglect something, whether it be an item, structure, or even person in our life, the item quickly loses its brilliance and can easily fade away. Outside debris and conditions wear away at its foundation, and before long, all that remains is rubble. My once-brilliant dog deck, a spacious area designed for comfort, had wasted away, all because I had neglected to remove the leaves which had fallen, year after year. So rather than a quick day of cleaning, my task of preparing became a total reconstruction.
As Riyann and I looked over the deck, preparing to begin work, I shook my head in disbelief. My regret over failing to simply clean up, over the years, was evident. As I looked towards my daughter, what I saw was quite the opposite. Affixed to my child’s face wasn’t regret or frustration but that of excitement and interest. Where I saw work and looked upon it with disdain she saw opportunity. With each screw removed, board discarded, and ugly word muttered under my breath, my child grew more and more intent upon the task at hand. In my frustration, she discovered adventure.
My attention was drawn to the mind of my child as we worked. As with any child, her attention would rapidly be diverted from the task at hand to something much more fun. With each jump and stomp she discovered that she could break the decking, exposing a large hole where a board once lay. The dad in me barked warnings while the daddy in me joyfully watched as the child would move to another location and play the role of a wrecking ball. As we continued our task, I noticed that the fun of breaking trough the wood had run its course and my child quickly disappeared. No, not under the deck, just on to other fun.
It was then that I saw my little girl run to the new wood pile. As I watched her struggle with a new piece of lumber, much larger than her, I inquired as to what she was doing. She relayed that she was bringing me a new deck piece to install, just “doing my part, to help” she said. Deterring her was difficult but she soon returned to my side, finding a new job and purpose in helping.
I learned a valuable lesson this day. So many times, our busy lives, full schedules, and general tiredness causes us to either neglect or strive to quickly resolve the issues in our lives. The last thing we want is to be bogged down with outside influences which lengthen the processes. Although my beautiful child lengthened the process of repairing the deck because of her antics of simply being a child, she made the experience worthwhile. So many times, it has become evident to me that if we merely give those around us our all, they will do as Riy did, and do their best to return the favor. Riy worked hard, tried new things, and had a little fun along the way. She may not have been able to carry a piece of wood twice her size, but she sure gave it a good shot. Friends, work at welcoming involvement rather than avoiding it. You too may just find that creating holes, in the end, lay the foundation for bridges.
Richard J. Stephens lives in Carter County and is the father of three little ladies ranging in age from 9 to 29.