Friday, February 12, 2010

... then I'm civic-minded enough to help!

In which Truffula finds a silver lining to all of the white stuff which fell from the sky...

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.


Kale for Sale said...

I love this. Thank you!

Lisa Sharp said...

I love stories like this! We don't hear them enough. Thank!

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

I LOVE this story! You've almost made me wish I had some snow to shovel. Almost.

Mrs. Money said...

Wow! That is a lot of snow!! What a great story. Thanks for sharing. :)

Daisy said...

Great stories! Our neighborhood cop used to shovel out the fire hydrant. Many neighbors shovel each other's sidewalks; they're cute about it, almost competitive. I enjoy our neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

There have been notices on my neighborhood listserve reminding people to keep fire hydrants clear and I think people have been doing so. Yes, while shoveling one manages to get along with the smart-alek, yet sometimes nice, neighbors. I am so discouraged after shoveling my sidewalks and those of the person behind me to keep my corner passable that the snow plows covered up both corners with snow above my head. Well, it is an extraordinary amount of snow. At least I got 2 days of walking to the bus via sidewalks.


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