June 2, 2009
Sunday is a day of rest like no other in Germany. A fairly traditional society, Germany observes more religious holidays than any other European country I know (with, perhaps, the exception of Spain). I live in Bavaria, which is the most conservative state in the nation. Hanging your wash on the Lord’s day is enough to get you expelled from the city walls. Or so I thought.
Last Sunday my husband and father-in-law attempted to finish the porch they had worked twelve hours to assemble the day before. Mind you, we were looking at not only a Sunday, but also a Monday holiday with great weather and a job to do. I grew increasingly concerned that we wouldn’t be able to get it done because of the no-noise law on Sundays and holidays.
My husband and father-in-law decided to bend the law a little and turn on the circular saw. Not once. Not twice. But three times. Now I would have turned a blind ear to the light knocking of the hammer. They were being really quiet. But when they whipped out the saw, I got nervous.
They’re gonna get us! I scowled and fretted about it for the rest of the day.
My in-laws suggested we apologize for the noise, which we did the next afternoon. Approaching whom I thought would be the most difficult neighbor to address, I gave her a kind smile, which she promptly returned. I apologized profusely for the noise and for breaking the day of rest. She sang my father-in-law’s praises, saying how helpful he had been while my husband and I were away for a week’s vacation. They had moved in to care for the kids, for the house, and, as it turns out, for the entire neighborhood.
“What’s a little noise? You had to do what you had to do. Take care now!” She grinned and gave a little wave.
I was stunned.
My father-in-law had quietly laid the groundwork, chatting it up with neighbors, sweeping up the debris in the common driveaway after a major storm knocked leaves everywhere, and spent time with each of them in some way. He made his presence known and spread positive energy.
And I realized all this time my worries were nowhere else but in my own mind. Kindness pays. Worrying does not.
That’s a power(ful) tool I’ll take with me on life’s journey.