Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Rising-in-My-Esteem Generation

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Rising-in-My-Esteem Generation

Article excerpt

My niece's teenage son, Leman, came to work for me the last week of June. He's five feet, five inches tall, thin as a rail, and weighs 113 pounds. I guess 115, and Leman corrects me. That tells me a lot. Weight is important to him, and he is unwilling to claim more than his due.

I need some help, no doubt about that. I've lost control of the front lawn and never did have a handle on the plantings in the backyard and on our acreage.

I love to plant trees, flowers, bushes, and vegetables, but after two hours of such work, I am too tired to take care of what I've planted. Elm seedlings are taking over the hedge, birds deposit mulberries around our house in summer, and squirrels plant walnuts among my raspberries every fall. Over the past couple years I've grubbed out a huge brush pile, but I keep falling further behind.

That's just in the yard around my house. On a small patch of scraggly prairie a few miles west of Fort Dodge, Iowa, are 450 small walnut trees and 150 little oaks. I planted those nuts and acorns four years ago, and weeds have taken over, obscuring the trees.

So when my niece, Pat, writes to me, I'm getting desperate for help. Pat is a teacher and needs to attend a seminar. She wonders if Leman can stay with us that week.

My wife says, "He'll be good help for you with the yard and your trees."

I am dubious. "We haven't seen this boy more than once a year," I say. "We hardly know him. Kids nowadays don't want to work. TV and the city swimming pool will take most of his time."

Nevertheless, I write back to Pat, "Leman is welcome, and if he wants to work, I'll pay him to help me with yardwork."

We pick up Leman the following Saturday. He is ill at ease, looking at the floor through rimless glasses, a shy smile playing across his thin adolescent face. Suddenly I remember what it's like to be in your early teens, and I feel sorry for the boy, being trundled away to spend a week with an old couple he scarcely knows. …

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