Friday, December 10, 2010

Lake Effect

Last year I mused about the magical quality of snow in the South. Here in the Midwest it is not quite so ethereal, but it does provide the opportunity to bring neighbors together.

I saw her from across the street through the cloud of snowflakes. She was crouched over her plastic snow shovel as if it were a cane, and she inched forward slowly as if she were walking through ankle-high glue rather than fresh, fluffy snow.

“Would you like me to shovel that for you?” I called out to her.

She stood hesitantly and looked me over, seeming to determine I was safe. I suppose my neighborhood is one in which little old ladies might need to be cautious. “How much?” she asked guardedly.

“What?” I asked, a bit flabbergasted at the thought of charging an elderly woman for such an easy task. “No, not for money. It won’t take any time at all; I’m just on my way back from church, and I can shovel this for you in no time.”

She looked at the job before her, such a small job for me, such a large one for her. “Well, yeah!” she finally said, handing me the shovel and backing up. In no time I had finished her walkway and was beginning the sidewalk. “Just get up to the driveway and shovel a space for a car to pull in. There is a man on his way to pick me up for church, and I wanted to have a space cleared for him.”

I looked at the woman’s frail body and the walker she had abandoned on the front porch when she began her shoveling. There was something beautiful and pitiful about her, about her haggard dignity that would go to great lengths to ensure that the able-bodied fellow who was picking her up for church would walk to her door on a shoveled sidewalk.

“He’ll think I did this myself!” she said with a devilish twinkle in her eye. “He’ll think I’m quite a frisky lady!”

As it turned out, she was able to enact no such deception; when I finished the job, we kept talking up until the fellow arrived (who did not pull into the freshly-shoveled driveway nor walk down the cleared sidewalk at all). But I had the feeling that she appreciated the conversation more than the potential rouse.

* * *

It was my first weekend of Lake Effect snow: I shoveled my sidewalk Saturday night, Sunday morning, and Sunday night, but was in too much a hurry to shovel it before going to school on Monday morning. As I watched it pour down while I was in class, I wondered how packed the sidewalk would be when I returned home that evening. As I walked home after dark over some rough sidewalks and saw what became of well-walked places that were not shoveled, I dreaded what I would find when I got home.

I needn’t have worried. My sidewalk, including the stretch of empty yard beside me that I doubt the owners will shovel, had been cleared for me already. Someone had taken care of me while I was at school, doing what I was unable to do as I had for the little old woman the day before. (I later learned that it was the man next door whose fiancĂ©e works at the abortion clinic. They hate the neighborhood, but they are nevertheless becoming good neighbors.)

I don't know how well I'm doing preparing for the coming of Christ this Advent season, but in my neighborhood we are at least beginning to prepare places for one another.

1 comment:

Christian H said...

It seems we have traded places. I now live where there is no snow. Go figure. I'll have to hear about it from you.