We've had just a little bit of snow in the past few days.
Snow is an interesting phenomenon. It can bring out the worst in people (for example, here's where I leave out several paragraphs about two flame wars which occurred on an email list I help moderate). But, as we shoveled ourselves out to recover sidewalks, driveways, and cars, I learned - once again - that the ephemeral white stuff (re)weaves concrete connections to community.
In the past few days, I've spoken more to the man next door than I have in over 8 years of living next to him. And, for the first time, I phoned his wife, as we'd made tentative arrangements to commute together on one snow-filled morning.
Two doors down, I helped another neighbor excavate his car from behind the icy berm left behind by a plow. We chatted about our children, their education, community service, and his very interesting job. As I left, he offered that I should simply come get him if I needed anything; he'd be happy to help.
One of the boys and I had a lovely visit with two other neighbors, who were joining forces on a driveway. We exchanged notes about snow removal in different parts of the country and the world; one of the men is from the Ukraine, and he told us about his snow experiences there.
Yesterday morning, in the bright post-storm sun, the kids and I headed out for a dual mission. Task #1 was to go sledding. What fun! Afterwards, the boys peeled off for home, as I set out to accomplish Task #2: to dig out my bus stop.
The plows did a great job of clearing the roads. The problem there was that the snow had to go somewhere. When it ended up at the curb, it left us hapless bus riders either either the prospect of climbing through and over mountains of crusty curb ice, or of hanging out in the street. And, with the snow piled several feet high, that climbing part wasn't so exciting.
This is why, armed with a shovel, I marched over to the bus stop flag, bent over, and started digging. And digging. And digging.
I noticed a man making inroads on a nearby snow bank, and felt him glancing at me. A few minutes later, he came over. "If you're civic-minded enough to do that, I'm civic-minded enough to help!", he announced. We both worked silently, he from the street-side in, and me from behind the bus flag out.
Having hefted many shovels-full, my helper spoke. He apologized that he could do no more. I assured him that every scoop he'd moved had been a blessing, and we briefly talked about shoveling snow, and the ways in which the need to keep fire hydrants clear of snow had been engrained in him. As he turned to go, I introduced myself, and he himself.
Ken, thanks so much for your lesson in kindness. You've cemented it for me: I will not only adopt my nearest fire hydrant in a snow, but henceforth, I'll add a bus stop to my snow-clearing duties whenever the accumulation warrants it. If you're civic-minded enough to help, then I'm civic-minded enough to keep paying it forward.