When Justin, our son, and one of his co-workers, Josh, came to town on business we were pleased to have them stay with us. Our house took on the look of a organizational think-tank as they gathered information, sorted it, and arranged themselves in various locations to discuss and re-organize everything they did. Nancy and I loved it, although we didn't have a dream about what they were doing.
Our pleasure was enhanced by the fact that Alex, Justin's wife, was along. So through the long weekend, we weaved in and out of conversations, stepped over piles of materials, and coordinated schedules with their frequent trips to CopyStop and other sundry places. But as long weekends do, their visit came to an end.
As they were strategically loading the car with luggage, business materials, and our grand-dog, Simone (and her assortment of essential puppy supplies and toys), Josh brought out an aluminum baking sheet.
"I was supposed to take this to my brother while I was here and I forgot to when I went to visit him the other night. Would it be okay if I just left it here? I'll call him and have him come by."
We readily agreed. We even offered to take it by to his brother. But Josh insisted that was too much trouble.
"I'll just leave it on the front porch if that's alright. That way he can just come by and pick it up without bothering you."
Once again, we agreed. Our house had often been a drop-off point for this and that. Nancy and I kind of like the idea of being a modern-day version of parcel post.
That was about three weeks ago. Each morning as I retrieve the newspaper I look at that baking sheet. It has moved slightly from time to time.
Initially the sheet was laying flat. Within a few days it was filled with water from the sprinklers. I thought it made a nice addition to our front entrance — sort of a mini-pond. However, what with the West Nile Virus and all, I supposed Nancy had concerns about the mosquitoes that were hatching there and turned the sheet upright.
The baking sheet poses no problem for us — although, I often contemplate if visitors have questions about our placement of cooking utensils. (I could probably alleviate their wonder by following the lead of a neighbor and leaving my Christmas lights up. Something about year-round holiday decorations and pots and pans in the front yard would lend itself to a common West Texas decorating theme.)
But its presence has me thinking about some of the things I may have left lying around for others to deal with. How many times have I promised to spend time with someone? To have that cup of coffee? To sit down and talk through some common concerns? To take care of something simple? To offer that apology?
I don't suppose that my lack of action is doing terrible harm. In fact, most days people wouldn't even notice. But do they wonder if I'll ever come through? And what about the others around them? Do they perch expectantly on the edge of my promises? Or, like the snails, do they approach and accept the fact that these monuments to expectation may stand forever without fulfillment — and then slide away disillusioned? Or do they come to my door puzzled by the presence of things that are easily attended to, but ignored?
The baking sheet may be gone when I go home this afternoon. I'll miss it in a way. For some reason, having a bit of aluminum siding has made my list of good intentions shrink as my list of good fulfillment lengthens.