Get It Done… Right.

There are two kinds of people in this world:  The people who do their own yard work and the people who pay someone else to do it.

I am the first kind of people.

I inherited the job of family landscaper the summer after I got out of the fourth grade.  It wasn’t a fun job, but my parents promised it would pay me in, wait for it, “character development”.

Since that day, I’ve been mowing lawns and taking names.  It’s not a job I enjoy, it’s a job I’m compelled to do by my very nature.

I don’t take care of my yard because I enjoy the challenge of taming God’s green earth,  I’m engaged in an unspoken competition with the men in my cul-de-sac.

I can’t afford a BMW so the only way I can “keep up with the Joneses” is to have the greenest, thickest, most manicured lawn in the neighborhood… and I’m keeping track.

I’ve developed weeding, feeding, and dog shooing into an art form.

This is why I said, “absolutely not.” when little “Clifford” from up the street offered to mow my lawn for $10 last summer.  The job was too important for me to entrust it to a ten year-old.


I came home one afternoon and my wife said, “Honey little Clifford came by and he wants to mow the lawn to make some money so I told him he could do it when you came home.”

I was incensed that my wife was completely unaware of the secret competition that only I knew about.

I was going to tell her about it when the doorbell rang. There, looking into the front window of my house stood my new gardener, waving with delight.

I went to the front door to send him home, but when I opened it and saw the excitement on that kid’s face I knew there was no way I could send him away.

My first sign that this was going to be a disaster?  He was wearing Heelies.

I tried to cheer myself up by noting that he had a really expensive, powerful, brand new, mower, the kind that pulls itself along as you walk behind it.

I asked if he’d mowed lawns before and he said, “yes”. I asked if he was going to clean up and sweep when he was done and he said, “yes”.  I asked if he knew what to do with the yard debris and he said “yes”.

I told him to get started and he said, “YES!”

I went inside the house to go yell at my wife but before I could find her there was a ring on the doorbell, Clifford needed gas.

When I took the gas cap off of the mower I noticed that it was already full.  When I told him this he said, “Oh it won’t start, I thought it was because it was empty.”

I started it for him… because I knew that you had to put the choke on the motor.

Then I turned him loose on my yard.

I should have stayed out  front to supervise the action, but if I was going to pay someone money to do something, I wasn’t going to waste a half-hour of my time watching them do it.

Not five minutes later there was a ring at the doorbell.

I went to the door and Clifford told me that the mower stopped and he couldn’t get it started.  I asked him if he put the choke on.  He said yes, and that the cord wouldn’t even budge when he pulled it.

I told him to bring the mower in front of the garage while I went to put my shoes on.

When I got to the garage I immediately knew what the problem was just from looking.  The grass bag was jammed full.

“Clifford, the blade won’t spin because the bag is jammed with grass clippings, you have to empty the bag when it gets full.”

That’s when I wondered how the bag got so full so fast?

I asked him how much lawn he had already mowed, and he said just one strip right down the middle.  I got queasy and light-headed as I rounded the corner to look at my lawn.

Clifford hadn’t set the height adjustment on the mower.  In fact, the height adjustment was set to full height on the front wheels and to minimum height on the back wheels.

He had taken a huge horizontal stripe out of my lawn with a mower that was essentially doing a “wheelie”.

There was a huge yellow and brown gash straight across my lawn.

You could see where the blade had cut into the turf.  The bag wasn’t filled with lawn clippings; it was filled with my lawn.

I turned around to look at Clifford and he stood there just smiling at me.

I asked him if he thought that this is the way the lawn should look and when he said “no”I asked him why he kept going.  His response was that he was just now seeing it too… because he was looking in front of the mower not behind the mower.

I couldn’t fault him on his logic.

After showing him how to set the height adjustment, and explaining to him what normal mowing the lawn should “feel like”, I went back inside the house to tell my wife what she had done.

I never found her because over the course of the next two hours I answered the doorbell every 5 minutes to responding to:

“Can I use your bathroom?”

“Look at this caterpillar!” 

“Do you smell something burning?” 

When it was finally over I gave him $10 and a soda. As he started  his mower, popped back onto his heels, and let it pull him back up the street to his house I was reminded of the tremendous difference between getting a job done and a job that gets done well.

Which brings me to Jesus.

“…some people brought him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to place his hand on the man. After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him “Be opened!”.  At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” – Mark 7:31-37

What stands out to me is the response the people had to Jesus’ miracle, “He does all things well.”  The people didn’t just marvel at the miracle, but about how well done it was.

Getting a job done is good, but doing the job right is better.

This is why wrapping paper is so important.  You don’t just buy a diamond ring, put it in a shoebox, wrap it in newspaper, and give it to your lady while you’re changing lanes on the 405.

The details of HOW something gets done are the things we look at to determine the amount effort that goes into something, and the amount of effort that goes into something is a sign of how important it is.

So what were some of the details?

Jesus took the man aside privately.

With all of the people surrounding him this miracle would have been good P.R. for the Jesus movement, but he refused to exploit his power, or the man.

Jesus took the tragedy of this man’s life and changed it.  This is especially humanizing for a person who would have lived his life at the fringes of humanity.

Jesus didn’t make his miracle more important the person.

“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. -Matthew 6:1

Jesus let compassion move him to action.

Jesus sighed deeply.  Scripture connects this with Jesus being troubled in his spirit.  This man’s suffering hurt Jesus. Genuine concern and empathy drove Jesus’ actions.

Jesus wasn’t healing this man because he was powerful, or superior, he healed him because he was grieved by the man’s brokenness.

Jesus got “hands on”. 

Jesus could have healed him with just a word, but the man’s friends begged Jesus to lay hands on him.  Jesus got intimately involved in the situation.

Don’t forget that Jesus’ time on our earth changed Him.  His hands-on experience with us shaped the future for all of us.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” -Hebrews 4:15

Getting intimately acquainted with the hardship of others not only changes our life, it calls us to join Christ as he changes our world.

Jesus looked up to heaven. 

By acknowledging his relationship to God, Jesus also demonstrated where the ability to change lives came from.  This step is often the difference between serving God and serving ourselves.

See, humanity can do compassion.  But compassion done in the name and power of Divinity is compassion that is well done.

Doing something the way Jesus did changes not just our lives but also the lives around us for HIS glory, not our own.


When Clifford arrived on my doorstep he had no idea how to mow a lawn and I had no idea how unimportant a lawn actually was.

He mowed my lawn for the rest of the summer.

As he did I learned Patience,





Well done Clifford.


7 Responses to “Get It Done… Right.”

  1. Sharon O October 28, 2011 at 4:40 pm #

    Beautifully written. Sometimes growth happens when we step back, let it go and let God deal with the situation.
    I am sure you built character in that young man through your trust, your patience and your friendship. Good job.

  2. Jon October 28, 2011 at 5:57 pm #

    Funny how it always goes both ways right?

  3. Amee Lihme October 28, 2011 at 8:55 pm #

    Jon, you’re a fantastic writer. Love that lawn story!

    • Jon October 31, 2011 at 4:14 pm #

      Thanks Amee, I really appreciate the encouragement!

  4. Leslie D. Martin October 30, 2011 at 4:28 am #

    But you left the all-important question unanswered. Did he finally stop scalping your lawn?

    • Jon October 31, 2011 at 4:15 pm #

      Oh ya, he eventually went on to take of the lawns on half our street! Eventually bought a cell phone.

      • Jesse November 2, 2011 at 11:32 am #

        I think you identified a new strategy in keeping your lawn looking the best. In order to level the playing field you get him to mow ALL the lawns on your street. Good Call. Also good story and message.
        Thanks Jon!

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