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Greg Peters column: The gift

Greg Peters

The "lawn mullet" is an enigma in all its capricious glory. I saw one on a walk around the neighborhood this past summer. The front yard was tightly manicured, meticulous and plush green, with snipped shrubs and fragrant flowers. The sidewalks and driveway had crisp edges, like a marine haircut on Veterans Day.

My inner clock, usually a few ticks on the slow side, told me it was time to return from my evening stroll and take a shortcut through the alley behind the house I just passed. Only this time, I saw the home's backyard. The backyard looked like the Amazon Rainforest met Sanford & Son. All business in the front and a party in the back, at least in benevolent landscaping terms anyway. The term, "lawn mullet," was a gift given to me this week by Brooke Dusk, a business loan officer at WESTconsin Credit Union in town.

I loved it. I laughed out loud when I read it.

Brooke used to be "the weather lady" for WEAU Channel 13 in Eau Claire years ago. She still enjoys giving the forecast and sends it out via email every day, for free, before her real job begins. It isn't just a weather forecast. I could check what the Weather Channel's Jim Cantore says, subtract 10 inches of snow and 32 degrees of wind chill from his, and likely deduce a nice ballpark estimate. I'll skip the math and stick with Ms. Dusk's forecast. It's not only forecasted down to the hour, she also slaps in a well-timed "lawn mullet" comment and a few interesting nature facts, the blackberry jam of every morning weather forecast breakfast.

It's a nice little 45-second read and I look forward to her community gift every time. If you want to be included on her weather forecast email list, just stop by and ask her.

Speaking of gifts, they can be delivered in all shapes and sizes. Some create smiles instantaneously; some take months or even years to realize their significance. I remember River Falls' Hannah Brager was selected on the "B" team in middle school basketball years ago. That was a gift she received. I'm guessing it didn't seem like much of a gift to her at the time, but it was absolutely one of the reasons she worked twice as hard, improved twice as much, and ended up helping lead the Wildcat girls' basketball team to the state tournament in 2015. Hannah unwrapped her gift of desire and work ethic from a ticket to the "B" team in middle school.

Some gifts are so celestial, so intricately woven into the web of a community, they're humanly impossible to forecast. Talk about a segue from sunny and 72 to a bone-chilling blizzard in one sentence.

Batten's Disease affects the nervous systems in young children. The disease starts with blindness and matures to seizures, wheelchairs, dementia, and finally, the loss of all cognitive abilities. Batten's is a hideous fatal disease. It is also extremely rare. About 2 in 100,000 children in the U.S. have Batten's. It's a genetic disease where both parents, unknowingly, carry the same defected gene. If only one parent has it, their child would be a carrier, but with no symptoms and never know they even have it. Even if both parents do carry the defective gene, there's still only a 25 percent chance each child will have Batten's. I know one family with two children and both children have Batten's disease.

How, you may ask, am I going to tell you this is a gift they have received? I can't. I don't have the audacity or intellect to make sense of why this happened to them. I can tell you, though, there is a gift involved with this family. So many, in fact, the gifts cannot be counted and no one on Earth will ever know the end of the trail.

This family has impacted so many people, but this story is about the gift they have given me.

There are bullets in the sky, both metal and verbal. Every time I watch the news or scroll through Facebook, it's dominated by mass shootings and endless political rants from both sides. Metal and verbal bullets piercing our air with hatred. Neither accomplishing anything more than a counterclaim.

It's atrophy for the heart.

That's when their family fed my soul and they had no idea they were even doing it. I heard about a small town in northern Minnesota inviting the oldest child, a girl, to their prom because she likely won't be able to go to her own. Eduardo Escobar, then playing for the Minnesota Twins, invited their family for a locker room tour to meet the team. People have helped make their house more handicapped accessible.

This list goes on and on.

The mom, understandably, has rough days and has asked on social media for people to send Bible verses to help "lift her up." I found myself reading the Bible to help her out. I had it backwards. She was helping me out. The outpouring of love for this family is contagious. The love and compassion is given but then extrapolated upon its return.

Their family has fed my soul and the more I think about them and all the love surrounding them, the more my heart is strengthened. The hate just vanishes. I know it's still out there, but it's petty and insignificant. There's just no room for it. Their family has given this gift to me and what a gift it is.

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