Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Learning the hard way with mole crickets and sprinklers

I'm not a quick learner most of the time. Despite Nina's claims that I am brilliant, at times I'm rather dumb. Yesterday and today has been spent fixing a sprinkler Valve system for a customer. Before I go any further I should probably describe a "customer."

I used to own a landscape company where in I charged people large sums of money to pull their weeds, mow their lawns, trim their trees and work on installing or modifying sprinkler systems. I loved every aspect of it but that first part. I don't really like telling people what I'm worth. I would rather have people tell me what I'm worth to them. This is one of the big reasons I don't work in sales. Some people treasure their lawns and so they pay handsomely. Other people see their lawns as a burden and only want to pay me what they absolutely have to to get the job done. I really don't care either way.

Now that I have a full time job that I love, I usually tell my customers to pay me with food. I HATE grocery shopping, meal planning and cooking (yet I love baking). So in barter I work, and I get fed. I have several vegetarian customers that are opening me up to a world without meat (I never really knew it existed).

Because I don't charge customers, I often tell them the truth. I am self and father taught. I don't guarentee my work and there is a strong chance that I might be wrong. (Though I never am.) (Usually). If you want a professional trades person or a college landscape person - go hire them.

That said - I still try to provide the best work I can.
On Saturday, after the game, I was telling my father of my plans. I told him I had a hard sprinkler job coming up. Knowing how much Icharge customers, my father asked me if I needed the job and if they were going to feed me or pay me. If they weren't paying me, why do the job. I told him I needed to do this job to learn. Eight months ago I had the same customer and I did the job and I screwed up. I needed to do this job to teach me about my last screw up.

In October of 1999 I met a man who had just talked in General Conference a few weeks before. This man left such a huge impression on me in October conference that year that I remember the talk today. Then a member of the Seventy, Elder Niel L Andersen related the following story.

Let me illustrate with an experience. Our family lived for many years in the state of Florida. Because Florida has a high concentration of sand, lawns there are planted with a large broadleaf grass we call Saint Augustine. A formidable enemy of a Florida lawn is a small, brown insect called a mole cricket.

One evening as my neighbor and I stood on the front steps, he noticed a little bug crossing my sidewalk. “You better spray your lawn,” he warned. “There goes a mole cricket.” I had sprayed the lawn with insecticide not too many weeks previously, and I hardly felt that I had the time or money to do it again so soon.

In the light of the next morning, I examined my lawn closely. It was lush and beautifully green. I looked down into the grass to see if I could see any of the little bugs. I could see none. I remember thinking, “Well, maybe that little mole cricket was just passing through my yard on the way to my neighbor’s yard.”

I watched my lawn for more than a week, looking for signs of invaders, but none was evident. I congratulated myself that I had not overreacted to my neighbor’s warning.

The story, however, has a sad ending. I came out the front door one morning, about 10 days after the conversation with my neighbor. Shockingly, as if it had happened overnight, brown spots covered my lawn. I ran to the garden store, bought the insecticide, and sprayed immediately, but it was too late. The lawn was ruined, and to return it to its former state required a new crop of sod, long hours of work, and large expense.

My neighbor’s warning was central to my lawn’s welfare. He saw things I could not see. He knew something I did not know. He knew that mole crickets live underground and are active only at night, making my daytime examinations ineffective. He knew that mole crickets did not eat the leaves of the grass but rather found nourishment in the roots. He knew that these little inch-long creatures could eat a lot of roots before I would ever see the effect above the ground. I paid a dear price for my smug independence.
Yesterday I spent 2.5 hours digging up old pipes and valves in wet rotting sand. Tonight I spent 3 hours building a new manifold and installing as much as I can. I didn't get done and will have to come back on Saturday to finish the job. I was planning on going hiking on Saturday. I was planning on working in my garden on Saturday. I was planning on sleeping in on Saturday. Instead I will wake up and go fix my customers' valve system.

I should have listened to the lessons of old bosses, my father, and my own past experiences. But I didn't. I didn't do any of that 8 months ago and now I get to do it all over again. Hopefully, after Saturday is over I will have learned.
Elder Andersen continues:
We live in a wonderful day. The blessings of our generation are lush and beautifully green. With faith in the Savior and obedience to the commandments, our lives can be full of satisfaction and joy.

Yet in these days of much beauty, our challenges in choosing to serve the Lord are more subtle than those of former days, but without question they are as spiritually pervasive. There are spiritual mole crickets that burrow under our protective walls and invade our delicate roots. Many of these insects of wickedness appear small, at times almost invisible. Yet if we do not combat them, they will do damage and attempt to destroy that which is most precious to us.

The warnings of the Prophets and Apostles lead them ever and always to speak of the home and family. Let me demonstrate the warning voice of the Prophets. On February 11 of this year, the First Presidency, with the support of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, sent to every member of the Church a letter of counsel concerning our families. Let me read you just two sentences from this letter:

“We counsel parents and children to give highest priority to family prayer, family home evening, gospel study and instruction, and wholesome family activities. However worthy and appropriate other demands or activities may be, they must not be permitted to displace the divinely appointed duties that only parents and families can adequately perform” (“Policies, Announcements, and Appointments,” Ensign, June 1999, 80).

What is our reaction to this prophetic counsel? What has been my response and your response to this First Presidency letter of nearly eight months ago?
The cost to my customers will be more of an annoyance than an abundance (About $75). However, there are lessons to be learned that are more costly when not learned. I haven't been myself lately. I've been sad, depressed and overly not enthused. This time last year I was excited about putting in the garden, taking great pictures and being generally happy. This year, I'm not. One big difference is my lack of tithing payments, scripture study and personal prayer. These are tiny things. It doesn't take more than 10 minutes in the morning to read a few verses and say a prayer. It doesn't take much to write a check on Sundays or to read a chapter of scripture at night. But I still don't. And being not myself is the lesson I am learning. This is a lesson 25 years in the making. There are some things in particular (thorns in my flesh really) that the Lord has been trying to teach me since I was 14. But I listen not. I ignore His advice and His counsel and lean on to my own understanding. And just like the sprinklers, I'm constantly having to come in, repair some damage, and make a new attempt.
One of my good friends has been doing the same. She too has been leaning unto her own understanding and not the Lord's counsel. I often wonder when she will start listening and stop letting her own actions destroy her life.
Experiences like today can be of great value or they can be worthless. Only when I learn can they be of value - and they will be a value beyond measure. But if I allow myself to forget about the hassle of this job, well then it will be for nothing and that - that would be really sad.

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