By Luke Miller
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” — Mahatma Gandhi
One of the most selfless things I do is also one of the most selfish. Or at least it feels that way — just because it’s so darn satisfying.
I’m talking about volunteering with Rebuilding Together, which provides free repairs, renovations, and landscaping for low-income homeowners across the U.S. I participated in two Rebuilding Together days this year — one in Brooklyn, New York, and one in Des Moines, Iowa — and both were very rewarding.
Sure, when I volunteer, at the end of the day I’m so stiff I start to walk like Frankenstein. But it’s a temporary thing, and the great satisfaction I get from helping someone less fortunate than myself more than makes up for the aches and pains.
Last year, it rained all day, and I was so muddy at quitting time that I had to cover my truck seat with plastic before driving home.
This year the rain held off — both in Brooklyn and in Des Moines — until we were done planting. How great is that?
In Des Moines, Lowe’s Creative Ideas team members were scurrying around like squirrels before a frost. Some were painting the house, others were fixing stairs, replacing kitchen countertops and a basement shower, or installing a patio. And some of us were landscaping. Here’s a look at how that went.
Before Rebuilding Together day, I visited several local Lowe’s garden centers and picked out the plants. To get an idea how they would look together, I grouped them on tables and rearranged them until I found the right combination. I needed evergreens for the backyard, and deciduous and flowering plants for the front yard foundation bed.
The homeowner wanted a low-maintenance bed in back, so I picked out a number of evergreens with various heights and shapes. Before planting, I laid them out — tallest in back; shorter, sprawling evergreens in front.
Easy-peasy, right? Wrong! The shovel’s first cut into the ground told me there was a lot of gravel beneath the weedy sod. Fortunately, the cavalry soon arrived in the form of some hardworking coworkers (all of whom were taking a temporary “break” from other duties).
After removing sod, we dug large holes (with the help of a pickaxe), removed the sandy gravel, and planted the evergreens. We backfilled with good topsoil rather than the gravel we removed — these arborvitae and junipers are hardy fellas, but there’s no sense putting them at mortal risk. A fresh layer of shredded wood mulch gave the bed a finished look.
Here’s the bed before installation.
And after installation.
Note the new patio, which was installed by other members of the Lowe’s Creative Ideas team the same day.
In the end, the homeowner was quite pleased with the results. I wonder, though, who will derive the most pleasure from this project. The homeowner when he relaxes on his patio, or the Lowe’s team when we think about the day we joined together to help a stranger — and plant a prettier world.
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