A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


The first thing I noticed upon walking up to my neighbor's front door was his lawn.

It looked immaculate.

Which isn't unusual. Chet always keeps his lawn like that neat. Trimmed. Orderly.

But I like him anyway.

The thing that surprised me about Chet's beautiful lawn is that it still looked beautiful a week after he had blown out his ACL in a friendly little game of basketball (Chet, bless his ankle, is just learning that after you reach a certain age, participation in any basketball game becomes a "friendly" experience: chiropractor-friendly, massage therapist-friendly, orthopedic surgeon-friendly, medical insurance company-friendly . . . you get the idea).

I was expecting to see a week's worth of growth on Chet's lawn, and was thinking about organizing a crew of neighbors to take care of things while Chet was recuperating. But clearly I was too late. Someone had beaten me to it.

It was probably Dave, the neighbor with the riding lawn mower. Or maybe Kenny, the neighbor who is so young and energetic. Or maybe Jay, the charming do-gooder across the street (who is married to Patty, the do-gooder Queen).

I was still running down the list of neighborly possibilities when 8-year-old Tanner, the eldest of Chet and Char's four children, opened the door and invited me in. He took me to his father, who was sitting on a couch surrounded by his doting children.

"I was just coming to see if there is anything I can do to help," I said, "but it looks like you're being well taken care of."

"I give him pee-os and wat-o," said Ian, who I think was trying to say "pills and water."

"I give hugs," said Abby, who, as if to prove her point, was cuddling on her father's lap.

Chet smiled and gave Abby a squeeze. "They've got everything under control," he said. "The only thing I have to do is heal."

"So who did your lawn?" I asked. "It was Kenny, wasn't it? I can't believe he did that without even asking if anyone else . . ."

"No, it wasn't Kenny," Chet said, smiling. "It was these guys." He gestured toward Tanner and his 7-year-old brother Cameron, who were both grinning 100-kilowatt grins.

I looked at Chet, searching his face for a hint of teasing. I mean, the man was on pain killers he could be hallucinating or something. Surely he meant to say that Tanner and Cameron had helped someone else do the job.

"Nope!" Tanner said proudly. "It was us!"

"We did it ourselves!" Cameron added.

It wasn't just that they had done the job that I found impressive. It was that they had done such a wonderful, thorough, aesthetically pleasing job that's what really blew me away.

"But it looks so . . . so . . . terrific!" I said.

"Yeah, it does," Tanner acknowledged, seriously.

"We do good work!" Cameron added.

And you could tell that he understands what "good work" means when he said that.

Looking into their faces, beaming with the pride and satisfaction of real, meaningful accomplishment, I couldn't help but think that maybe some of us (uh, that would be me) underestimate our children. Not only can they do work, but they can do good work. They just need to be taught how to do it, and then given the opportunity to show what they can do.

Blown ACL not necessarily included.

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--- Joseph Walker


Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through