This weekend, I went outside. I got on my hands and knees on the cool, soft earth and crawled on the lawn all Saturday and Sunday. Johnny Cash was there, and so was God. And the neighbors saw me and laughed. “It’s too late in the year,” they thought, “to be gathering fall leaves.” And yet I gathered and bagged, and lifted and hauled. And, in the end, thirty-six of the biggest Hefty lawn bags I could find lined the street in front of my temporary home—each filled to the brim with brittle, decayed leaves. As I worked, I would look down at my wounded, scratched hands and believe that my work was good.
On my belt was my Walkman, feeding a collection of slow Johnny Cash songs into my ears, as I swept up piles of leaves and sticks and loose garbage into each bag with my bare hands. A neighbor appeared with his child, disappointed that there would soon be no mountain of leaves for his child to play in. The harvest of leaves was great, but the workers were only one. I cut my forearm in several places, but the most severe wound came on two of my fingers. Blood was shed on my jeans and on the handle of the rake. The dirt and dust mixed with the blood, and I pressed on with my work. I knew the task was great—the amount of leaves was overwhelming. They littered the lawn like grains of sand—like the stars of heaven. But I pressed on. Little-by-little, bag-by-bag. They would all be accounted for. Every leaf, every hair, every lamb.
I touched the ground, and collected the leaves. I toiled with the ground that is cursed because of me. And in the end, all I did was move dirt from one place to another. My toil is meaningless. My work is futile. Vanity—all is vanity. But I press on. I obey. It’s the only thing to do. Who am I to know God’s plan? Who am I to know the fate of my work? When God says go, I go. When He says do, I do. What else can I do?
I touched the ground—my future home. The dirt of my life. The dirt of my legacy. Everything inside the house will one day be dirt. And I will have nothing to bring with me—but dirt.