The Man Who Shovels Snow

Who was the first person you encountered today? Write about him or her.

I’m going to exclude my partner Laura from this question since I write about her all of the time. That would make the first person I encountered to be my neighbor’s great-nephew.

My neighbor, Ms. M, is in her 80’s and lives alone in her rowhouse. She keeps a car parked in front of her house, using it mostly to attend church and occasionally lending it to her family members. She is a very nice woman and has apparently lived here for most of her life.

Her family comes around to take care of things for her. When it snows, her great-nephew takes care of her walk.

I can tell he’s here because there’s a sudden blast of R&B coming from the street. At first blush, you might think its a teenager blaring their car stereo as they idle at the corner stop sign. But soon the actual soulful sounds persistently winding their way into my living room make me realize that it is him. He turns on her car radio while he takes care of the walk.

I peek out the window just to be sure and see him shoveling and sweeping away. Sometimes, he stops to croon into the handle (don’t we all?) and sometimes he’s just very focused on his task. Sometimes, he even shovels our portion of the walk.

His music reminds me of my younger days when we turned on the car radio while we washed it at our parent’s request. When I shovel snow, I might listen to my iPod but usually I just listen to my own muttering as I complain about uneven bricks and the unwieldy shovel. I wouldn’t turn on my car radio for some reason. Because it’s cold? I don’t know. But I find his ritual to be rather lovely. Why not listen to good music while you work?

Then, without warning, he’s done. The music is off and he’s gone. It takes about 20 minutes max. He doesn’t wait for the song to end. He just wraps it up and off he goes. He’ll be back tomorrow if it snows again. Or Monday.

When we shovel, we always clear her walk and steps, too. It is just being neighborly and we really appreciate that he returns the favor.  But we also appreciate that her family looks out for her. They are private – we barely know their first names, but they seem cognizant of the fact that we do our best to help her out as we can.

And it is lovely to hear music pierce the air reminding us all of its power to make even the most mundane task better.



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