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Combating Evil With Good


NextStage: Predictive Intelligence, Persuasion Engineering, Interactive Analytics and Behavioral Metrics A deliberately provocative title for a possibly mundane post, yet I’ve often learned that the best way to combat things that displease us is via mundacity, so be patient with me and let me know if my offering passeth all understanding for you.

Early last Saturday morning, a neighbor brought in a grounds crew to do some mowing and trimming. A team of three young, tanned and able bodied gentlemen, tshirts, cuttoff jeans, workboots and sunglasses all, and each with an incredibly loud piece of equipment, two riding, one strapped to his back, and they had at it.

Early last Saturday morning.

Even earlier last Saturday morning I was already awake. Sometimes I get up early to read on the backporch and listen to the birds, squirrels, chipmunks, bees and the rest of nature fighting for survival.

I heard the truck and trailer drive up and clatter, bang and backfire to a stop. I looked around our neighborhood. No shutters open, no shades up, no blinds withdrawn, no dogs barking, no cats meowing, no children bicycling, no basketballs a’ bouncing, no baseballs a’ batting. It was…

Early last Saturday morning.

About a mile from my house is a donut shop. While my neighbor came out of his house in his bathrobe and slippers to talk to the grounds crew, hair askew and sleep still muddling his eyes, I got in my car, drove to the donut shop and returned with five large black coffees, sugars, creamers and a dozen donuts. My neighbor was still talking to the grounds crew when I drove down the street.

Early last Saturday morning.

I parked in my driveway, gathered the coffees and donuts and walked across the street. My neighbor and the grounds crew were standing in a loose semicircle looking at and talking about my neighbor’s yard, the other half of the circle was taken up by their trailer and equipment. Their semicircle opened a bit as I approached and I assumed the six o’clock position.

“You guys like some coffee?” I didn’t wait for an answer, I handed them each a coffee, the “man-in-charge” first and my neighbor last as the coffees went from 12 o’clock to five, and I put the box of donuts, opened, on their trailer. “Help yourselves. I got a variety. Sure to be something you like.”

All offered their thanks. We chatted. For about an hour. Sipping our coffees, munching on donuts, listening to the dogs start their barking, the cats start their meowing, the basketballs start their bouncing and children start their playing.

By now Susan (wife, partner, all things bright and beautiful) had raised the shades and opened the blinds, a sign her Saturday had started quietly and peacefully, as all civilized Saturdays should.

I took the last swig of my coffee. “I’ve held you guys up long enough. Have a great day and don’t work too hard.” They offered grateful thanks. I don’t know if my neighbor was being charged by the hour or by the yard and I heard him comment “Yeah, he’s a good neighbor” as I walked away.

Many Years Back…

…I would walk a mile in the mornings. This was before the donut shop appeared, our neighborhood was still young and grounds crews weren’t needed. One street on my route always had a bit of litter on it. After a week I decided to take a kitchen garbage bag with me and pick up the litter on my walk. There was an ice cream stand next to a ball park on my return route and I could drop the trash in their bins if I didn’t want to carry it back.

I noticed a young boy and his father on these walks. They also noticed me and we got in the habit of waving to each other as neighbors often do. The occasional “Howdy” and “Hello” and “Beautiful day for a walk” and such and nothing more.

Then one day I noticed them ahead of me on that street, garbage bags in hand, picking up litter before I had a chance.

A month or so later a few streets more were looking cleaner as I walked.

Wicked Problems, Mundane Solutions

This blog has described some phenomenal challenges prevalent in today’s society. Brother David Morf’s Winning on Health and Economics for Real post is an example of such and I applaud him. It’s a worthy and passionate read.

And while we’re busy creating ACOs or waiting for others to create them, go buy a box of donuts for those who irritate you. Pick up some litter for no other reason than you like clean streets.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Rick Lent permalink
    2011/06/07 9:05 pm

    Thanks Joseph. Joni M’s “The Hissing of Summer Lawns” comes to mind. But I now have a whole new meaning for that as it involves the geese who live next door, but like my lawn better, and wake me with their honking shortly after sunrise. They can’t be bribed by coffee and donuts …and they hiss at you when you walk out the door. Still, I wouldn’t trade them for a second for some gas powered, leaf blowing noise maker nearby.

  2. 2011/06/07 9:15 pm

    Yes, The Hissing of Summer Lawns, hadn’t thought of that and a good connection. Say hello to your geese for me.

  3. John Wackman permalink
    2011/06/29 10:45 am

    Nice work! A brilliant way to preserve the peace of an early Saturday morning. Was that your diplomatic intention from the start? Did it dawn on you neighbor what had occurred? Has he–or she–commented since?

    My friend Jeff Gates passed along your link–this is the first post I have read–and now I am a subscriber.

  4. 2011/06/30 5:34 am

    Hello and thanks for reading and commenting.
    I wish I could admit to a higher intention or greater wisdom and it was really quite spontaneous. I merely wanted to keep the neighborhood quiet for a while longer, let those still sleeping sleep. Long ago I worked on a ground maintenance crew and remembered having to get up early (never a favorite thing even though I worked on a farm for many years), getting to the first job still half asleep, etc. We had a foreman who made the rounds of the crews first thing in the morning. He got in the habit of bringing us coffee and donuts, chatting us up, and at one point told me that his fifteen minutes of chatting, coffee and donuts shaved as much as an 1.5 hours off our first-project time. A good investment, he thought, in lots of ways.
    So perhaps it was an homage to my old boss, perhaps a desire to preserve the peace, perhaps a willingness to be neighborly or a mixture of all three.
    And no, aside from my wife and one other person, no one’s commented since.

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