Who will do the shoveling?
About 10 inches of snow blew into town overnight and covered everything like a fairyland. But, as in all fairy tales, there is a moment of reality: the morning brought the need for snow shovels in the city. It didn’t take me long to grab some warm clothes and run out of the house to survey the beauty of it all. As I reached the front sidewalk, I spied the back of a person riding a green-and-yellow tractor several houses down.
This grey-hooded figure had plowed 10 inches of heavy, wet snow from my sidewalk and then was sneaking off down the street, good deed done. This wasn’t the first time this has happened, and I felt a need to know the identity of this mysterious benefactor and to thank him.
Coming around my corner a few minutes later, I thought I had caught my secret helper. There was a green-and-yellow tractor, grey-hooded driver and a cleared sidewalk across the street and up a block. I ran with shouts of ‘thank you’ and greeted a surprised snow removal man. No, he had no idea who had cleared the walk by my house. He usually cleared, as he did this day, the sidewalk on the other side of the street.
The words ‘usually cleared’ stuck in my mind. He did this, unnoticed by most of his neighbors, on a regular basis.
Walking back to my house in the cold, I was reminded of a poem my mother to read me when I was young: ‘The March winds shall blow and we shall have snow and what will poor robin do then, poor thing? He’ll hide in the barn to keep himself warm and tuck his head under his wing, poor thing.’
That morning, in the face of the wet, heavy snow, I had responded by strolling along the street and taking photos of the beautiful scenery. Then, I had gone inside to drink something warm and dry off. My neighbor, by comparison, had prepared himself to help when the need came. I’m sure there were other neighbors who, upon looking out their windows and seeing the snow, retreated back to their warm beds.
There are always a variety of choices we can make when the cold winds and snow enter our lives:
1.) We can be as the robin and head for the barn and hope we live through it all.
2.) We can go out and, making the best of it all, enjoy and photograph the beauty that exists. Live in the moment, we call it.
3.) We can attack with a vengeance the snow on our own walk so we can get out.
4.) We can take a shovel and began to scoop the snow for our neighbors whose backs are weaker or for those who, though capable, aren’t at hand today to clear the walks for the mailman, joggers, walking neighbors and trash collectors.
Our responses on one day may not be the same as our responses on the next. However, our attitudes about how we fit into life are a way of life rather than a one-shot thing.
For Christmas, a friend gave me a book, ‘The Heart of a Volunteer.’ Inside are quotes such as this one by Tracy Chapman: ‘I’ve seen and met angels wearing the disguise of ordinary people living ordinary lives.’
And here is another quote from Mother Teresa who used to work with the dying poor of India: ‘What I do, you cannot do; but what you do, I cannot do. The needs are great, and none of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.’
Later in the book, that humble little nun is quoted as saying, ‘I used to pray that God would do this or that, but now I pray that He will guide me to do whatever I can do. I used to pray for answers, but now I’m praying for strength. I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us, and we change things.’
In my last column, I sought to find a source of inspiration to spark us to action. We discussed the renewable energy of the human spirit. Perhaps it’s also the key to revitalizing our lives.