Mystery Mower

Creative Nonfiction published in Friends Bulletin, 1996.


Down on my knees defrosting the refrigerator, I hear the hum-whir-whir of a lawnmower cutting the grass between crocus and daffodils. Through the vine-covered window l see a dark head bulging from soundproof earmuffs.

I remember the Mystery Mower of last summer. When I’d returned after the Fourth of July, my grass had been cut! I’d been delighted–and curious.

Who knew I had no mower? I’d asked friends and neighbors, who hadn’t thought of it. I’d embarrassed them. Asking was spoiling the gift.

All summer someone continued cutting my grass. Taught to give thanks, I was frustrated by my anonymous donor. It takes grace to accept a Random Act of Kindness.

Today my car’s in the shop; he must think I’m not home. Peering out the window again, I recognize the large man with dark hair and beard, a former student, a refugee having trouble with English. I’d given him extra help and encouragement.

My first impulse is to open the door, run out and lavish thanks. But I pause at the doorknob. This man is an older student, shy and formal, from a proud and generous heritage that honors learning and reveres teachers.

I would embarrass him by gushing. So I do not open the door, wave him down, have him stop, take off his earmuffs to hear my thanks.

I do not spoil his Random Act of Kindness. I will cherish it, and commit one of my own.

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