Like a Good Neighbor…
When we all emerged from our cozy homes the day after Snowmageddon we were faced with a parking lot filled with snowed in cars. Everyone was outside armed with shovels, brooms, and willingness to help. As we began to dig out, the snowplow arrived to help clear the lanes. We were laughing, dodging snowballs, using teamwork to get each other’s cars free, one by one. Our strapping teen boys dug fast and hard. Our playful middle schoolers climbed the biggest snow drift to shout out direction about things they could see from their 13 foot perch. Little ones watched from windows with mugs of [warm] chocolate. We all had work to do and understood that gathering together made that work much more manageable.
Except for one of us. He was in his four wheel drive truck, frantically shifting gears from reverse to drive, rhythmically gunning his engine in an attempt to rock his truck out of its snow prison. He was clearly panicked, needing to be mobile sooner than the rest of us.
At first, the group reaction was one of annoyance which turned quickly to concern for the kids running around. Neighbors alternated between looking over at his distress and putting their heads down to complete the task before them. His distress, however, was increasing. After a couple of minutes, we began to trickle over toward him and explained that we would dig him out if he would be still for a little while and let us do that. He slumped in his seat and let us get to work. When his truck was free he drove away with great relief.
We knew he had survived genocide before he arrived in our townhouse complex. Neighbors may or may not be reliable. They may only think of themselves and their own safety. He later told me that his panic that morning had everything to do with his sudden knowledge that, no matter how prepared he was [even with a large 4 wheel drive truck to help him escape just about anything], he still had to depend on the benevolence of his neighbors. Digging out from Snowmageddon made him feel as vulnerable as he felt the moment he understood he would have to get himself and his family to the nearby mountains in order to survive the slaughter going on around him. The difference, in 2010, is that neighbors advancing on him with shovels and brooms came to help him escape.
Hopefully, not every neighborly opportunity to help will feel as desperate as this one. There are opportunities every day to let someone near you know you see them and are friendly. I know a woman who makes several sandwiches each morning to pass out to homeless folk as she walks to work. Offering your seat to a fellow commuter who seems tired is a gift. A smile or a nod as you walk by. These moments, so small, communicate community. Such a simple thing. Such a necessary thing for all of us.
Loving on Life’s Terms: being available for small and big moments of connection and awareness of the needs of others.