Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Shoveler

As the Washington Metro area recovers from what is the single biggest one-day dump of snowfall in quite a while, I find myself delighting in it. Not so much the sparkly winter wonderlandiness of it all, or even the opportunity for some toboggan launches off of our carport hill.

It is, instead, a great time to get to see neighbors as you heave snow around. For most of today, the snow has been too deep to drive a non-AWD/4WD vehicle through. That means people are walking, not hermetically sealed away in wheeled compartments.

As I shoveled out our drive, what passed by were not cars, but human beings. To each of them, the natural response was a shouted hallooo, followed by some moments of pleasant conversation. Suddenly, the neighborhood was full of people, people who've lived within 100 meters of us for years but with whom not a single word has been passed over all those years. For those moments, it felt less like a 'burb, and more like a community.

I learned two names while out heaving snow into big piles on the lawn. The pleasant older gentleman who lives cattycorner to us told me his name years ago...and it promptly slipped out of my sieve-like cortex. I now know it. The guy across the street who we've called "Chimpy" for years? His name actually sounds like "Chimpy."

But there was more shoveling goodness. Earlier today on Facebook, I said:

David Williams is reasonably sure that shoveling counts as a spiritual discipline. Like most forms of meditation, it involves prolonged and ritualistic repetition of one particular movement, coupled with repeated verbal invocations of the Maker.

Now, I'm sure it's a spiritual discipline. Not so much because of the silliness I suggested, but because after finishing up my walk this afternoon, I went over to the house of some unusually pleasant neighbors undergoing unusually hard times. Both are older, and he just finished a course of radiation treatment in preparation for cancer surgery. Though I'm hardly the king of cardio, the hour I spent clearing their driveway was more than worth the burn in my legs and arms and back. I talked with them. Shared time with them. And in a small way, made things better for them, I hope.

Deep snow and snowshovels are a marvelous opportunity for Jesus people.