I’m a bonehead. Just puttin’ that out there.

The other day we got an official city notice. A slap on the wrist about the alarming state of our part of our back alley. Among the offenses (yes, there were several);

1. The weeds exceeded seven inches in height.

2. There’s a detached section of fencing lying on its side that needs to go bye-bye.

3. There’s a dead lawnmower that must be disposed of.

4. There’s a (now, almost) bio-degradable foosball table. Which is not allowed to bio-degrade in the alley, apparently.

5. And a van-top storage thingy. Which will never bio-degrade, and as such must be removed.

6. We don’t have our house number prominently displayed.

7. Oh, and if we don’t fix it all by… uh… several days ago, we’ll be fined. Money.

Aw, shoot. Busted.

But I have a confession to make. My first reaction wasn’t “Aw, shoot. Busted.” It was, “I wonder what stupid excuse for a neighbour ratted us out?” It was probably one of two lovely families across the alley, the poor saps who have to sit on their decks and watch our personal dump grow every year.

But the die had been cast. It was clean up, or pay up. So out I went, muttering to myself that I had to waste a chunk of my day off fixing the curb appeal of my back alley. First up? Removing all the middle and back seats for our van to make room for a trip to the dump. Like, the city one. Then loading up all the broken stuff, then breaking up the old section of fence, then loading that up.

Muttering.

Muttering about the fact that I was going to have to pay twenty bucks to dump the stuff. Muttering that I was wasting my time.

And glancing back and forth down the alley to see if I could catch anyone gloating. No such luck, but I did notice a few choice factoids that stuck right proper in my self-righteous little craw. Things like, no one on my whole block had their house numbers prominently displayed. And pretty much all the houses had two foot high weeds. Two feet! So I’m thinking, “I should lodge a complaint. Slap it down on every person in the alley.” I pictured their dismay getting the notice, the shame, my revenge. “That’ll teach ’em to make a mountain out of a molehill.”

My thoughts then turned to the house numbers. I chuckled to myself as I pictured painting four foot tall hot pink numbers that you could see from the moon. Or better yet, spelling them out that big. One hundred and twenty three blah blah blah. It would have been forty feet long! “How’s THAT for prominently displayed?!!!”

Idiots. Stupid, brainless, un-neighbourlike. I oughtta…

“Brad.”

Yes, Lord?

“What are you doing?”

I’m cleaning up my stupid alley, thanks to my anal retentive neighbours. Trying to be good witness by doing my duty. You know me.

“Brad?”

Yes, Lord?

“The point isn’t how tall their weeds are.”

It isn’t?

“No. And it’s not about their numbers not being prominently displayed.”

“But—”

“Or the fact that they complained and you got a notice that makes you feel dumb.”

It’s not?

“No, it’s not.”

Sigh. No, it’s not. It is, however, about the fact that I deserved the notice, that I crossed the line, embraced negligence, and got nailed. Because I should have been. And it’s not about other people’s sin, and how good I am compared to them. It’s about me.

Usually is.

And there are moments, no matter how badly I want to sling junk at others, that I realize the truth.

I am the garbage man. He lives in me (no offense intended to real garbage men/people. Even if you did rat me out).

Jesus, thank you for your patience. And cleansing.

Amen.