Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Little Old Not-So-Crazy Neighbor Ladies

When I was a kid I used to sit outside and watch all the neighbor ladies sweeping. They swept their doorsteps. They swept their porches. They swept their stairs. They swept their sidewalks. They swept their driveways. Mrs. Correa even stood in the middle of the road and swept that! They swept like it was their personal mission to attack all dirt within a five-mile radius. When they swept it was like Charlie Brown's friend Pigpen walking by. And when they all got going at the same time, I had an idea of what the Dust Bowl might have been like. If I had known then what an anthropologist did, I'm sure I would have felt like I was studying an unknown culture's rituals.

I thought of all those neighbor ladies this morning as I swept my walk and driveway, tidying up after last night's lawn mowing. After I'd been responsible for a home of my own for awhile, I finally realized that all that sweeping outside made for less sweeping inside. I grew up with a mother who had a love affair with highly-starched curtains and thought the smell of ammonia and bleach mixed together was "lovely." In light of that fact, I think I can be forgiven for not necessarily placing housework high on my list of priorities. (Though my house isn't as grody as reading this blog regularly might lead you to believe. Honest!) But this morning as I got into the rhythm of sweeping and listened to the tchh-tchh-tchh of the broom on the concrete, I came to a new realization.

It's about more than cleanliness. It's neighborliness to the nth degree. It's about self-respect. It's about loving your family. It's about loving your neighborhood and the world at large. By showing that you care about your little corner of the world, you're also showing how much you care about everyone else's corners. Everyone in the world should have a corner of their own that's clean, well-swept and free of all manner of debris. Sadly, that's not a reality for many of our neighbors. But if we all do our best work, we can eventually help that come to pass. Some of us work to clean up the environment. Some of us work to make sure children grow to their fullest potential. Some of us provide food. Some of us serve and protect with their lives, be it in the military or as police officers and firefighters. Some of us bring joy through the arts. Some of us practice medicine. And some of us sweep. But no matter what job we're doing at any given moment, we're all doing the same job.

As I put the broom away, I said a little prayer and thanked all the neighbor ladies for showing me something so wonderfully important. Even if I didn't know it then.