A favorite saying of mine is that good things grow in shit. This doesn’t mean that shit is in and of itself good, but if you’ve done any gardening or farming, you know what a good fertilizer it is. And what I mean by “good things grow in shit” is that sometimes the shit you didn’t want in your life helps something else wonderful to grow.
Now that you understand that, let me tell you the sad story of the nightie.
Back in June, my wife was preparing to go on a one-week mission trip to Haiti with a group from church. One of the things she needed was a nightgown to wear in the shared coed sleeping quarters. Something that wouldn’t be seen as revealing, clingy, or sexy, and yet something a little more suitable for the temperatures down there than the sweats she usually wears (although, now that I think about it, her usual summer sleep outfit of a t-shirt and shorts would’ve done just fine).
I just happened to be in Target one day and saw a nightgown with stars on it that wasn’t clingy, wasn’t overtly sexy, but was really cute. I figured she could take that to Haiti and wear that with no problem, and then I’d get to see her in it when she got back. So I bought it, and presented it to her when I got home, saying that it would be perfect for her to take with her.
When she came back, she told me about how many items of clothing people on her team left behind for the people in their Haitian village, basically only returning with the clothes on their backs. And one of those things was the nightgown I’d bought for her.
I was appalled. I was angry. I was hurt. I couldn’t wrap my head around what was going on in hers. I bought her a cute nightgown and she leaves it behind? Who does something like that?
After a lot of conversation about this, we sussed out that she didn’t think it was special because it wasn’t sexy. She figured I’d just bought her some schmatta to be used on the trip. After 31 years together in one way or another, she hadn’t figured out that I never buy her some schmatta, and that any article of clothing I buy her is something I like, and want to see her in.
We also hammered out a rule to prevent future misunderstandings like this from happening. That rule is that when someone (especially me) gives you something, you have to keep it for at least a year before you give it away…or at least ask first.
So what does this have to do with bulldozers? A lot.
A very dear friend of mine moved away three years ago. She’d pretty much never been away from home in all of her 61 years, and this was gonna be a major event. As a going away present, I gave her a toy bulldozer, telling her that as much as I loved her and wanted her to stay around, she needed to get out and see the rest of the world, and the bulldozer was here to push her out of her comfy nest.
I hear that that bulldozer has sat next to her bed for the three years that she’s been gone. I’ve also heard that her grandson has been salivating over his grandmother’s toy.
And here’s where the part about good things growing in shit comes in.
I saw her recently, and told her the story about the nightie that got left in Haiti. I also told her about what Cheryl and I decided about needing to hang on to something for a year before giving it away.
And then I told her, “Your grandson’s been wanting that bulldozer ever since he laid eyes on it. Let him have it. It’s done its job, and you’re happy where you are. You don’t have to hold onto it anymore just for me.”
I couldn’t have told her that had Cheryl and I not gone through the shit of her leaving the nightie behind, and having to come up with very precise rules about how to handle things people have given you.
And frankly, that shit’s gonna make a child somewhere in North Carolina very happy.