On Saturday, I decided to make one last push to get the fall yard work done . . . that meant finishing the enormous task of taking care of the leaves. I had already bagged 33 garbage bags full of leaves, and there seemed like at least 20 more on the ground (the final count ended up more like 60!).

At some point during the day, however, I realized that not all of these leaves should go in garbage bags. Some would serve me well by becoming winter mulch and eventually compost on my gardens. So I hauled out the wheelbarrow to begin making the move.

The problem was that it was a really windy day, and though the leaves had been rained on at some point, they were now completely dry and full of life in the breeze. Moving a wheelbarrow full of leaves on a windy day didn’t feel like a very productive task.

As I hauled load after load to a couple of my vegetable garden beds, the futility of the moment felt frustrating, then comical. I imagined winning a couple thousand bucks on America’s Home Videos as I started with a full load and ended up dumping out much less. Then, I began to imagine coining a new phrase for all the futile tasks we do in life. Now, when someone seemed like they were getting nowhere, instead of saying, “It’s like emptying the ocean with a teaspoon,” they would say, “It’s like hauling a wheelbarrow full of leaves on a windy day.” (I wonder if I can copyright that?)

But then, I realized that the job was really just like a lot of life. It wasn’t neat and efficient — there were as many leaves on the path as there was on either end. And it certainly wasn’t exciting — I can think of at least one hundred more exciting things to do than move leaves around the yard, like trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon, for one. But the job was there for me to do, and in doing it, I will reap the benefits. 

Not just the benefit of having better soil in my garden next spring, but also the character that comes from doing mundane jobs and finishing the work, of using my resources rather than buying a new and improved tool for the job, and in seeing the silliness in life and laughing at it rather than complaining.

There are lots of tasks that Jesus puts in front of me that seem like a wheelbarrow full of leaves on a windy day. But even if I leave a lot of leaves on the path along the way, I know there will be at least a little something left for the garden when I get there, and that can only mean new growth in the Spring.