Last summer, I was the Ward Service Project

We had a great plan. Our local water Conservancy District was offering rebates for households that revamped their yards to be more water-friendly. We wanted to do our part to save water, especially during the severe drought affecting our part of the country.  Less altruistically, we also wanted a nicer yard. We were in.

The Water Conservancy District gave us a whole year from the time we submitted our project plan to finish our yard and claim our rebate. We didn’t even write down the due date. There was no way it was going to take us all year. We were going to whip out this project and immediately claim our rebate so we could pay off any expenses we added to the credit card.

Hah. There was a pandemic going on. Getting supplies for the project was difficult, slow and expensive due to worldwide supply chain problems. Our plan included a sports court made from environmentally-friendly, porous tiles and a soccer turf made from used turf reclaimed from a professional soccer field (saved from the landfill!). But keeping factories open was tricky during a pandemic and sporting events were cancelled.  We had a long wait before we got our supplies. And we greatly overestimated our ability as mere mortals to rapidly complete a major renovation project by ourselves while working our full-time jobs for longer-than-normal hours because we were simultaneously supervising our kids’ pandemic-imposed online schooling.

When at last our sport court tiles shipped, the courier somehow lost them. You heard that right.  They lost a sports court. The thing was huge—big enough to fill three pickup trucks. How did it go missing? We had to get back in the queue and order again and by the time our tiles arrived, we were getting uncomfortably close to our deadline with the water Conservancy District. The project was expensive and we couldn’t afford it without that rebate. We had to make that deadline.

My husband and I worked hard—perhaps a little too hard for our middle-aged bodies. One day, after apparently coming out unscathed from many hours of hard labor in our yard, my husband injured his back while bending over to brush his teeth. Two days away, we had scheduled a bobcat rental to level the yard for our new sports court and soccer turf. We would have to cancel. I couldn’t do it by myself. My husband would most likely be out of commission until after the deadline for the rebate was past. We wouldn’t make it.

On the way back from the emergency room, we stopped at the pharmacy to pick up pain meds. I saw one of my neighbors there. He said, “How’s it going?” He didn’t know it was a loaded question.

I told him all about my husband and the freak tooth-brushing accident. I told him about our yard and the rebate we would not be able to claim.

I had forgotten that my neighbor was also the Elders Quorum President of our local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) congregation. He called the next day and told us that the Elders Quorum would like to help us finish our yard as a service project. I was thrilled.

But as always, we had underestimated the scope of the project. The Elders Quorum couldn’t finish it in one day. So they came again. And again. And other neighbors and Ward members came, too. Even the pre-teen Activity Days kids showed up and did some of the more lightweight labor.

I was grateful. And also embarrassed. Too much service was being directed towards me, an able-bodied person who hadn’t had a death in the family and wasn’t in poverty. I wasn’t needy; no one needs a yard with a sports court.

Maybe so much service for my husband could be justified on the principle that what goes around comes around. He’s always the first to show up to help a neighbor move or build their shed or fix their plumbing. Most of my volunteer time is dedicated to the Mormon feminist movement, which I consider to be infinitely valuable with potential to yield great returns for all Church members and everyone who interacts with them, but most of my religiously conservative  Ward members probably wouldn’t feel the same way. And I confess that I am not the most awesome when it comes to bringing meals and loading moving trucks. I do not deserve my neighbors’ service.

But charity, the pure love of Christ, is not stingy. We give according to people’s needs and wants. And the pure love of Christ is not limited to the narrow confines of what people actually deserve.  

I felt the love of Christ through the selfless efforts of my neighbors and co-parishioners as they helped me finish my overly ambitious and poorly planned project. I still feel it, when I look out the window into my lovely, water-friendly yard.

Thank you.

My new yard. The light green area toward the back is our new sports court.

April Young-Bennett

April Young Bennett is the author of the Ask a Suffragist book series and host of the Religious Feminism Podcast. Learn more about April at aprilyoungb.com.

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3 Responses

  1. Anon for This says:

    That is very nice of your ward. But I feel like many of us aren’t even getting our needs met. Much less our wants.

  2. Katie Rich says:

    Your yard looks beautiful! And I appreciate the idea that we can give according to people’s wants. It allows for so much less judgment.

  3. Heather says:

    Such a beautiful example of reciprocity. When it works, ward families can be such blessings.

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