[This was one of my more popular posts last year, so I modified it a bit and reposted it .... because I'm shoveling/moving mulch.]
Recently a small dump truck put 8 cubic yards of hardwood mulch in my driveway. On purpose. It’s the amount we purchased this year to spruce up our flower beds for Lauren’s upcoming graduation party. Everything has to be perfect, you know!
The newspaper carried remarked, “Looks like someone’s going to be doing a lot of work.”
I was the someone.
I don’t own a Bobcat, so I had to tackle the mulch pile with a scoop shovel, wheelbarrow, and tractor/trailer. One scoop at a time.
In few days, the huge pile will be gone and distributed around the property. As I finished shoveling the last round last year, I thought of how the huge job got done. One scoop at a time. The original pile was a daunting presence blocking our ability to drive in and out of the garage. But, I dove in and just started to work at it – one scoop at a time.
I thought of the 3 acres where we live, a former cornfield now full of wonderful trees, bushes, flowers, fruit trees, and lush green grass (or at least it looks lush in rain-blessed May). I remember when we dug over a thousand holes (true!) in the ground in 2002 and planted “little sticks” (actually seedlings) in little areas around the property. People used to snicker a bit at how many we planted – and how small they were then. Now, they can’t believe what has developed and grown since then (see picture).
The “one scoop at a time” lesson applies to other areas of life. I remember when I began my PhD work at Purdue and people commented on the difficulty making the 2.3 hour drive to the college (and back each night). Ii thought of all the salespeople who drive more than that each day in their regions. But, for Kel and I, it was the best way to stay where we wanted to live and to still take the disciplined steps toward a goal.
When I arrived at Purdue, I found others making similar commitments to chase their dreams/calling. I met colleagues from Taylor University, Indiana Wesleyan University, and the Auburn area who were making similar or longer drives each week to be there. Three years later, I was done with my weekly travels. 18 months after that, I had completed my degree. Worth every long trip – one trip at a time. By the way, mystery books on tape really helped!
I wish I could say I possess diligence in all areas. No, in fact the mulch pile experience challenged me about some areas where I’m not digging in one scoop at a time.
Too often I see people face a large problem and choose to walk away without digging in. Some dig in for a while, but then adopt the “good enough” stance and quit. Others tire while some take their eye off of the goal and onto the not-so-glamorous grunt work it takes to achieve the goals. Whatever the reason for quitting, everyone else can still see the huge pile blocking progress. I see this when students hand me college term papers that clearly were left to the final hours and are thus hastily and poorly written. As I read those unedited first drafts, I think of the waste to hand in a paper that says little – and does it so poorly. Coaches regularly see this when it comes to off-season workouts and conditioning.
In counseling settings, I see people who expect quick fixes to large problems. Similar to how they developed, the problems can only be addressed by a long-term commitment to work through the issues – one at a time. And to make a commitment to to the hard work that is foundational to future relationship success. As a Dean at a college, I regularly encounter people who want to write a book, but that’s where they leave it , the want. Some get about 15K words into it and realize the work necessary to move it to completion – one scene at a time – and they give up on their dream.
You get the idea.
The lesson of the mulch pile is to settle in for the long haul, keep your eye on the goal, and just start digging in. One scoop at a time. Before you know it, you’ll look around and be amazed at what has grown from your work and others will take note too. Few clap or cheer while you dig. They only notice when it’s done. So, instead of saying, “Get ‘er done!” I’d rather say, “Start digging.” Consistent diligence is the lesson of the mulch pile.
What are the big “what if’s” you’re facing? What relationship is strained and you’ve been holding back from digging in? What might God be calling you toward and you’ve been hesitant? Are there resolutions or disciplines that you’ve put off for too long now?
Get digging. One scoop at a time. You’ll be amazed later.