Guy Mows Lawns for Free in All 50 States, Has a Challenge for America’s Kids
LifeZette talks to a man who's found his 'purpose in life' — his passionate goal is to help others, too
Alabama-based Rodney A. Smith Jr. is on a divine mission to mow at least 50 lawns in 50 states this summer for single moms, veterans, elderly people, and those who are disabled. And he doesn’t charge a dime.
“It’s a calling,” said Smith in an interview with LifeZette. “I believe this is my purpose in life.”
“Back a few years ago, I had a one-on-one conversation with God, and I asked Him to use me as His vessel,” said Smith.
Later that day, he ran across an elderly man mowing his lawn.
He pulled over to help the man.
And the rest, as they say, is ... well, keep reading!
LifeZette caught up with the industrious Smith recently during his nationwide tour by himself — by car. He had just arrived in North Carolina and was headed to Charlotte.
Previously, he'd been in Maryland and Virginia.
Smith works at about a one-state-per-day rate. He has a master's degree in social work. The recent graduate did the same "50 States, 50 Lawns" community service project last year as well.
Since he began his mission, Smith has come across many folks who touched him deeply. He is particularly concerned about people on fixed incomes who struggle to pay for their medications. Some regularly face municipal fines for uncut lawns — and Smith aims to relieve them of that burden.
"When we can come cut [their lawns] for free, they can use those funds for medication and food and other things they really need," said Smith.
By "we," Smith refers to a growing band of community-minded young people, currently numbering about 150. Collectively, they've mowed some 2,000 lawns (and counting).
Smith's lawns-across-the-country task, which began May 17, is just one part of his project. He has also launched a program called Raising Men Lawn Care Service (RMLCS), which encourages boys and girls to follow his lead.
RMLCS rewards child participants for their community service in a martial arts-like fashion. Kids earn T-shirts in different colors for every 10 lawns they mow, similar to the belt-earning system in some forms of martial arts.
When they hit 50 lawns, Smith's participants are in for quite a surprise. Smith shows up in their hometown to mow a few lawns alongside them and presents them with a brand new lawn mower, to boot!
"The 50 Yard Challenge is for kids nationwide," Smith explained. "They mow 50 free lawns in their community, wherever they stay, for the elderly, disabled, single moms, and veterans."
In return for accepting the challenge, Smith sends participants a white shirt emblazoned with the "Raising Men Lawn Care Service" logo. Kids move up in rank for every 10 lawns they mow — and each rank is marked by receiving a different-colored shirt.
The system is loosely modeled after that used by martial artists who earn different colored belts as they demonstrate mastery of different skill sets.
"Once they reach 50 [lawns], we fly out to wherever they are and we do lawns with them. And we also surprise them with a brand-new lawn mower."
"To date, 12 kids nationwide have completed this challenge ... There are 130 plus kids right now taking part in the 50 Yard Challenge, so it's spreading. We have one kid in Canada and also seven in Bermuda in England," said Smith.
The project is funded by donations and gifts. Some supporters give via an Amazon Wish List, where RMLCS lists needed supplies. Current needs include a string trimmer, a push mower, and Gatorade.
One of the first kids to join the challenge back in 2016 just recently achieved the 100-lawn mark. The boy turned nine recently; the pride in Smith's voice was clear.
"[RMLCS has] eight chapters right now," Smith added.
One day, he hopes to have chapters nationwide, in every state. He has seen a good bit of interest in starting chapters, but vetting local leaders is time-consuming.
"I hope to inspire more kids to get out there and make a difference," said Smith.
Rodney Smith Jr.'s message is both simple and profound, and one our nation needs. "If you're able, you can make a difference. If you're able, then get out there and do it."
Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to LifeZette.