After 23 tons of dirt, I have a better view of children

The 23-ton load of dirt sat in our front yard like a large piece of obsidian. Reseeding our front lawn had seemed like a good idea when we'd discussed the job over supper, quietly sitting at our kitchen table.

But now – staring at this dark mountain while armed with only two shovels, one wheelbarrow, and tons of mosquitoes – the task seemed insurmountable. I had visions of my husband and me chipping away at the pile for the next four months.

Maybe we would reseed in the fall, instead of spring, I thought. Autumn is supposed to be a better time for growing grass, anyway.

In spite of my misgivings, we started.

On the first night of shoveling, my husband had to leave early to go to a church meeting. This gave me a good excuse to quit. But just as I was emptying my wheelbarrow, the neighborhood bug collector, snake tamer, and budding naturalist stopped by to inspect my work.

Becky immediately climbed to the top of the black mountain and slid down.

"Wow, this is fun!" she called as her clothes and exposed skin took on a blackish hue. After the fourth roll to the bottom, she grabbed the unused shovel and started piling dirt into the wheelbarrow. "Can I help?" she asked, still shoveling.

Before long, Becky's sidekick, Alanna, stopped by to take a few rolls down the hill. Not willing to be outdone by Becky, but lacking a shovel, Alanna rode her bike home to get a spade of her own. This was great, I thought. Not only were we making a little dent on my immovable piece of granite, we were having fun doing it.

The next afternoon, Becky and Alanna were back – sliding, digging, chatting, and arguing over who had thrown the most dirt into the wheelbarrow. Soon, Ian and Aaron stopped by. Although originally attracted by the prospect of doing mischief with the girls' bicycles, the boys quickly became fascinated by the dark protrusion that sat dormant in our front yard.

Borrowing hoes, shovels, and wheelbarrows from their parents, we soon had a brigade of dirt movers. Parents from all over the neighborhood stopped over to stare at the spectacle.

Instead of shoveling, I found myself passing out cans of soda, cookies, and various flavors of popsicles. "Now I know how Tom Sawyer felt," I thought.

The next day, the carnival came to town, complete with greasy French fries, cotton candy, fried dough, Ferris wheels, and haunted houses. Anyone who is anyone attends the annual spring carnival in our town. And my dirt movers were definitely "anyones." Four times I answered my door as the children came over, one by one, to apologize for not being able to help that night because they were carnival-bound.

"No problem," I called, "So are we!"

But the next night, everyone was back at his post, shoveling the black mound flat.

As a reward, we mounted our bicycles and headed to the local ice-cream stand. My husband and I toasted our helpers over sundaes, milkshakes, and ice-cream cones.

I've heard the exasperated exclamation, "Kids these days!" all my life, and I've never known what people meant. But if they mean how helpful, considerate, and neighborly they are, then I understand.

Kids these days are great!

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