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Saturday, February 27, 2010

A simple act of kindness

I went out to shovel snow this morning (again!).  We got another 4 inches or snow.  No big deal.  (Ugh!)  Doug is working midnight shift and went grocery shopping before coming home this morning, so he was tired and just wanted to go take a nap.  So I was on my own.

I got all bundled, took Honey out with me to play, and I got busy.  Our driveway is about 100 feet long, so I thought I would do it in 1-hour increments today.  It would take me probably 2 full hours to do the whole thing (in between playing with the dog).

But just as I was finishing up my first hour and thinking about heading in, my neighbor from across the road came over.  She had just finished shoveling her (much shorter) driveway and offered to help me.  We talked for a few minutes.  She told me how she and Doug were "bonding" while shoveling out of the big snowstorm a couple weeks ago ... she in her driveway, Doug in ours.  They were talking across the road and complaining about the plow trucks undoing all their hard work when they came past plowing the road.  :)

She asked me when my daughter's surgery was and complimented me on the work we've done on our house.   All the while, getting to the business of shoveling snow.

Of course, I told her several times that she didn't need to help me.  I was fine on my own.  But she insisted.  She lives alone.  Her son is in the Army and is overseas and her daughter lives about 45 minutes away.  I don't know if she is divorced or widowed.  I didn't feel like I know her well enough to ask that yet. 

I told her I didn't want to keep her from anything else she should/could be doing.  She laughed and said that if her dishes didn't get washed or her sweeper not run, no one was going to complain.  That made me sort of sad.  But she's probably used to it.

We shoveled and talked and laughed at Nicholas who had since joined us outside.  He was busy telling her about everything he could think of and climbing on the mountains on snow we still have from the last snowstorm.

It took about 2 hours total to shovel the entire driveway ... just as I had estimated.  But it was so much more enjoyable with someone to talk to for the second hour.

We joked that hopefully the next time we get together it will be over coffee (or tea since I don't drink coffee) or hot dogs and hamburgers cooked on the grill instead of snow shovels in the driveway.  She said when her son comes home - hopefully sometime this summer - she will have us over to he can tell Nick what it is like to be in the Army.  (Nick told her he wants to join when he grows up).

While I'm writing this I'm thinking how unusual something like this seems to be these days.  Helping out a neighbor without being asked.  She didn't want anything in return for her time.  She wasn't expecting me to pay her or to even return the favor some day.

Which got me wondering ... why don't neighbors do things for each other or even know each other anymore?  I will admit that before today, I did not know her name.  We waved at each other while getting the mail, but that was the extent.  And we have lived in this house for 12 years.  I believe she's been there the whole time also.  That is shameful.

When I was a kid we knew all of our neighbors.  I grew up on a 57-acre farm so the next-door neighbors usually couldn't be seen from our house except in the winter when the leaves were off the trees.  Still ... we knew each other.  Perhaps not every intimate detail ... but still.  And we did things for each other.  I can remember my dad helping the neighbors clear the snow from their driveways with his snow blower on the back of the tractor ... not expecting anything in return.

It was just what you did.

I also remember our next door neighbor arranging the wake after my dad's funeral. We came home to a house full of food and people ... even though I didn't want to be around anyone at that time nor did I feel like eating ... but it was still thoughtful.  I know that now.

We seem to be so out of touch with people now.  Emailing, texting, blogging, Facebooking, Twittering (I know that's probably not a word) ... but not talking to people face to face.

Human touch and interaction can have such an impact.  I'm sure you've heard stories about babies in NICU struggling until they have been held or even just touched by their loved ones.

It means something.

I'm thankful for my neighbor's simple act of kindness.  And I'm thinking of what I can do for her in return.  Even though she's not expecting anything.

I'm a service-type person.  I guess you'd call that my love language.  Her helping me shovel just pushed all the right buttons with me.  It gave me the warm fuzzies.

So I'm sure I'll return the favor with a pot of soup or an invitation to dinner (if she doesn't mind eating with my crazy kids!).  She's by herself so she probably doesn't cook "meals" too often anymore.

I'm also thinking of things that I can do for others.  Paying it forward.  Something I definitely need to do more of.

It can't be a bad thing.

What can you do?

1 comment:

Laura said...

Oooh... good post! I meet my neighbors when I take the kids out for walks in the summer. (Kids are such a great ice breaker haha.) I may not remember all their names but we always stop to say hi. But the people that only come out to get in their cars... they are HARD to meet! So I don't know the person who lives right next to us.

I think another reason people don't know their neighbors is because they are too busy to be bothered with getting outside. If you don't go outside it's hard to meet your neighbor. But if you are working in your garden or playing with the kids and the other neighbors happen to be out at the same time... that's how you meet.

Someone is moving in two houses down across the road this weekend. I'm thinking I should make it intentional and take them a meal or brownies or something.