Watering Our Neighbor’s Lawn


When I stopped worrying about the boundary between us, I found we both benefited.

We have lived next door to the same family for twenty years. Up until about six years ago when we got an automatic sprinkling system, I struggled to water a twelve-foot-wide strip of grass that adjoins our neighbors’ lawn. Our neighbors have had underground sprinklers for as long as we’ve lived next to them, and their lawn has always looked luxuriously green. The best I could do with my portable sprinkler was to keep our side barely presentable.

Since our neighbors’ lawn was always green, I made sure that none of our water went on their side. Why should I help them when their lawn already looked so good? However, it was hard to water such a narrow section of grass, especially when I was being so stingy with the water. Midway through one summer season, I decided to allow our sprinkler water to freely go over the property line.

To my surprise, our lawn quickly improved. The yellow grass along the property line disappeared, and our side didn’t look so patchy. Soon there was no way to tell where our lawn began and the neighbors’ ended—it was all one beautiful expanse. But the benefit of watering our neighbors’ lawn didn’t end there.

A couple of years ago, our neighbor started mowing our twelve-foot section of grass every time he mowed his lawn. The result is that the property line is no longer apparent, not only because both sides are equally green but also because they are the same height—mowed the same day. This principle of watering your neighbor’s lawn works in other situations to improve and bless lives.

While three college-aged sisters were shopping together one afternoon, they all filled out entry blanks for a new-wardrobe contest, the winner of which would receive a thousand dollars’ worth of clothes. Several weeks later, the youngest sister received a phone call informing her that she had won the prize.

Elated, the winning sister began to plan a stylish, color-coordinated wardrobe. But then she thought of all the times she had borrowed her sisters’ clothes. She wondered how she would feel wearing beautiful new clothes while her sisters wore the same old ones. After some deliberation, she decided to split the prize three ways.

Her sisters were deeply touched. However, they insisted that their younger sister keep the prize for herself because she might never have another chance to build the basics of a real wardrobe. By watering each other’s lawns, the family avoided envy and contention and grew in love and unity.

A few years ago a friend of mine was called as ward Primary president. While she was praying about which women should join her in the presidency, she felt impressed to keep the secretary from the previous presidency. However, the secretary seemed unhappy about serving with the new presidency and soon began to decline assignments and miss meetings. When in an attempt to mollify her the president stopped asking the secretary to help so much, the secretary grew even more resistant and said, “Well, it’s obvious you don’t need me.”

As the president prayed for help, she felt prompted to go to the secretary’s house and simply tell her that she loved her. The situation felt tense when the secretary answered her door, but then the president said, “I just came over to tell you that I love you, and I hope we can work well together.”

From that day on, a change began to occur in the secretary. Not only did she start accepting more assignments and participating fully in the presidency, but over the years she and the president became close friends. Even after they were released, their friendship continued to grow stronger. The president’s effort to water the secretary’s lawn paid off in a rich Church-service experience and friendship for both.

The scriptures tell us to “give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6:38).

When we water our neighbor’s lawn, both we and our neighbor are blessed.

Let’s Talk about It

This article may furnish material for a family home evening discussion or for personal consideration. You might consider questions such as:

  1. 1.

    What teachings of Jesus Christ support the concept of “watering our neighbor’s lawn”?

  2. 2.

    Share experiences you had doing a good deed for someone. How did you feel when you were the recipient of someone else’s service?

3. Are there current situations in your life that could benefit from a generous sprinkling of water over the boundary line?

[illustration] Illustrated by Steve Kropp

Marilynne Linford teaches a Relief Society Spiritual Living class in the East Mill Creek Eleventh Ward, Salt Lake East Millcreek North Stake.