“And you know, He has already written the book, and I’m just reading the pages out and just doing everything that He wants me to.”
Describing his call to action through answered prayer while speaking in a distinct Northern Alabama accent, Rodney Smith frequently uses the formal ‘yessir’ when beginning to answer questions and discuss his work empowering young people to give back to their communities through volunteer lawn care. It’s this care and respect he uses with his words, even to a stranger, that makes his story all the more inspiring, important, and in some ways God-ordained.
Here is a man who prayed for a mission and found his prayer answered.
As Mr. Smith says about the beginning of his life’s work creating Raising Men Lawn Care Service to date:
“So basically, to start off, one day, I came across an elderly man outside mowing his lawn who looked like he was struggling. And I just pulled over and helped him out. Ever since helping him out, I decided I was (going to) start mowing free lawns for the elderly, disabled, single parents, and veterans here in Huntsville, Alabama.”
From this one small act of kindness a movement began, one that would grow to involve not just Mr. Smith but an entire organization of young people across the country, and eventually across the globe.
“My first goal was to mow 40 lawns by the end of winter. But then I went to 100. A month and a half later, I reached 100 lawns, and then that’s when the idea of the organization came about. So, it just started naturally, just off that act of kindness.”
That one act of kindness blossomed into a full-blown movement, working through social media, where Mr. Smith recruited kids aged seven to seventeen to be a positive force in their communities with a simple act of kindness: mowing their neighbors’ lawns.
According to its website, Raising Men Lawn Care Service is, “the union of an ordinary yard maintenance service and the commitment to establish an inspiring program to keep our youth (girls & boys) on a positive path while learning and understanding their value in society. RMLCS provides free lawn care to our elders, those who are disabled, single mothers, and our veterans, who do not have the time, resources, and/or money to manicure their yards.”
Raising Men Lawn Care Service is a 501(c)(3) organization. Boasting more than 1600 young people in eight countries, Mr. Smith’s mission is proof of the power of compassion for his fellow man. None of this would have happened if not, as Mr. Smith is clear to point out, for a prayer answered.
“When I first came out of high school, I went to ITT Technical Institute, and I was there for about six months. And during those six months, I disliked it. I was calling back home and telling my mom, I want to come home. I remember one night just praying to God, asking him to use me as his vessel. He didn’t give me an answer that day. Not a month later, not even a year later. It happened a few years later. I was in Huntsville, Alabama, my senior year getting my bachelor’s in computer science. That’s when I came across that first elderly man. So I credit God for everything that I’m doing because I asked him to use me as his vessel.”
In addition to providing a community service for the less fortunate or uniquely abled in their communities, Mr. Smith believes the program instills a deeper work ethic and pride in the young people who sign up for his 50 Yard Challenge, a pledge to mow 50 lawns in their communities for their neighbors in need.
“Yeah, that’s a bonus to get kids away from video games and in the community, and we find that kids are wanting to get out there and make a difference, to help those in need. And, you know, we’re instilling that good work ethic and building that character. And one important lesson you can take from everything that we’re doing is that we’re teaching kids, it’s important to give back to those in need, you know, because one day you will be old, and you might need some assistance. And you can always trace it back to the organization where it all started. You gave back, you were a kid once and you gave back.”
When asked about the future, as always, Rodney Smith is direct and to the point.
“I envision it to be a big community project like the Big Brothers and Big Sisters and organizations like that because it’s a much-needed service. And we operate year-round and fold them into removing snow and raking leaves, picking up trash. So you know, just to keep growing the organization step by step, lawn by lawn.”
What started as a simple act of charity, born of care and respect for his fellow man, has become a calling for Rodney Smith and his ever-growing crew of budding philanthropists.
Don’t be surprised if his organization changes a community near you for the better, and soon.