The first time I really took much notice was when she was lying on the sidewalk. We went over and presented her with the standard cliché. She said she was, and we helped her get up, and she hobbled off.

I had my office manager email the city. I had images in my mind of them coming out and pouring a cement square and calling it a day. They didn’t. Instead we got a letter in the mail saying that it was our responsibility to fix the problem.

“What?” I said on the phone to the city official, “We own the sidewalk?”

What it really came down to was the tree. Our tree cracked the sidewalk so it was our responsibility to get it fixed. There often seems to be a discrepancy in life, between what we want and what we get.

Actually, the whole thing started about forty years ago because of the sun. Someone decided to solve the problem of the sun shining too much in the west-facing windows of the church. In a moment of brilliance they took a little potted tree, dug a hole about ten feet from the side-walk, right in front of the windows, and put it in the ground. It was a good solution, it worked well for quite some time, but the problem solvers didn’t imagine the end result — another problem. It’s often like that with people who plant trees — they lack the prophetic gift.

When the company we hired came and broke up the sidewalk, all sixty feet off it, they uncovered root work —  forty years of it. Huge python-like roots were exposed, some six inches in diameter, lurking along a sixty foot span of walk, uplifting the cement from two to three inches, creating a trip hazard, eventually upending an older woman.

The fix cost the church close to $7,000 — the removal of the 35 foot tree, the removal of sixty feet of walk, the pouring of the new sidewalk and curb, the purchase of new landscape — non-root invasive.

There is often a discrepancy between what we want and what we get. We want someone to fix a problem; we are required to fix the problem. We want shade, we get a bill for $7,000.

I’ve noticed the discrepancy lately. Recently the son of a friend of mine committed suicide. We were stunned, knocked sideways, and run over by this. I went to the memorial service and came back home kicked in the head. This wasn’t what we wanted. We wanted life; we got a brutal death. A mom planted a tree. The roots broke the sidewalk. There is no fix.

There is a discrepancy in life between what we want and what we get. There is an uplift, a break, a gap and we fall on it, or into it and we don’t much care for lying on the concrete.

I don’t quite know what to do, but one thing comes to mind. What we can’t fix we can love. I love my friends left. I love the good that was in the little boy who grew up and then gave up. I love fixing the things I can.

The discrepancy remains, but it doesn’t overwhelm us, because other things remain too, a new sidewalk, a new tree, new friends, good memories, bravery — love.

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