A post-storm moment of practice in which I am reminded how important it is to know, as neighbors, both who I aspire to be and who I do not want to be.
The morning after Winter Storm Jonas dropped 24” of snow on my neighborhood, I was on my third round of shoveling, my husband Gideon and I working in shifts to dig out his car. The sun was out, the snowfall pristine, everything sparkling. I was warmed up from an hour’s worth of effort, focusing on one shovelful at a time.
Exhibit, Neighbor A: a lean young guy in electric blue skin-tight running clothes trots past down the middle of the freshly plowed street, looks back and calls over his shoulder, “Having fun yet?”
Until he said that, I would have said, Yes, I am. Not fun in the way he meant, but I had been absorbed, in the zone. I found myself staring after him and said to myself, Well, F.U. And then I jabbed at the snowpile with more ferocity than needed.
Exhibit, Neighbor B, an hour later: A guy walks by with his son, shovels over their shoulders, and asks how I’m doing, could I use some help? Sure could, you guys for hire? “No,” Dad replies. “We’re on our way to Stephanie’s (a gardening buddy of mine who lives around the corner) to help her dig out her car. We’ll stop by on our way back, see how you’re doing, see what we can do.” Then we introduced ourselves.
By the time they returned, I was inside dosing myself with Arnica to avoid muscle soreness, and Gideon was out shoveling. The three of them, working together, dug his car out in a bit over an hour.
Without them, it would have been another day’s worth of shoveling for us.
This is the kind of neighbor, the kind of human being I want to be: Don’t even need to know your name to see you need some help and offer what I can.
But without Neighbor A, I wouldn’t have had the chance to wake up just a tad, to pull myself up short, to recognize (again) how a small thing, a few words, has an impact for good or ill.
Or to see myself as Neighbor A: I don’t have to reach so far for a few sarcastic words, or to treat someone to a flippant, smart-ass comment. A good reminder of what I can inflict without thinking. And then – give us both a moment of grace for being human!
I’ve learned really just in the past year how important it is to be able to say not only who I yearn to be, but to say just as clearly: this is who I do not want to be. This is who I no longer want to be. And then: I offer them both a cuppa tea, encourage them to talk to one another, bring those parts of myself into relationship.
Practice is the snow-cover that softens, rounds, and brings a glistening to the landscape of our humanness.