Monday, December 13, 2010

Not-So-Random Acts of Kindness

The past few days have really helped me believe in the goodness of humanity.  We had about a foot and a half of snow on Saturday-- much more at one time than we are accustomed to.  It was declared a snow emergency, everything was canceled, and some roads are still not cleared of snow.  The parking lot at my apartment is one of those places.  On Saturday, I stayed inside all day until about 7pm, when I decided to go out and see how badly my car was buried, and try to dig it out so I wouldn't have to Sunday morning before church.  I found a shovel near the entrance to my building, so I borrowed it.  I had been working for fifteen minutes or so, getting totally absorbed in the work, insulated by my hat, scarf, and hood, when suddenly a voice behind me says, "Digging out?"

I think I jumped and perhaps yelped in surprise.  It was the guy who (I think) lives above me and works maintenance on the building.  He offered to help me finish moving the GIANT drift of snow, and as he is taller and stronger than me, was finished much quicker than I would have been.  It was very kind of him, especially considering that he said he had been shoveling snow all day.

Sunday morning, having already dug out (or so I thought), I went to get the car out.  But I realized that digging out my own car was not enough; there was a single set of tire ruts to drive in, but getting into them was another matter.  To back out of my parking space enough to clear the huge piles of snow on either side, and then turn around enough to get going the right way, required more space than was there.  Even with four-wheel drive, I got stuck in the snowbank.  So I went to find the shovel and dig out again.  Who should be using it but the same guy from last night, having the same problem with his car that I was having?  He was trying to get out to buy some gas for the snowblower, so he wouldn't have to shovel all day again.  So I helped him dig out and pushed the car while he gunned the engine, and he finally got going.  Then he helped me dig out and get going the right way.

Later on Sunday, I went church again for the rehearsal for the evening service.  When I got there, I realized that I couldn't get into the parking lot my usual way, because the city snow plows had shed snow about two feet deep blocking the entrance.  So after I found the other entrance clear, I parked, got a shovel from the narthex, and started clearing the snow.  There was a lot of it, and it was taking a while.  I was taking a short breather, when I realized that there was a car behind me, coming out of the parking lot.  I turned, and it was an older couple in a big SUV-- with a plow on the front.  The man got out and said, "Can we help you with that?"  I said, "Yes, please!"  They proceeded to clear the entrance, saving me at least half an hour of hard work.  As they were leaving, I asked if they were members of the church.  They said no.  I asked for their name, so we (the church) could properly thank them, and they wouldn't give it!  Just said they were "two angels, passing by".  So sweet.

Then today, before work, I stopped by the apartment office because my heat hasn't been working.  They said they'd take a look at it while I was at work.  Then I went to Target to buy my own shovel-- figured it might come in handy.  Then after work, around 6pm, it did!  I was about to head out to do some errands, and I saw an older man trying to drive out of a snowy parking space he had backed into.  His tires were spinning and he was not moving.  I offered to dig him out with my (brand new) shovel.  Tried that a while, still wasn't moving.  Then I tried pushing.  Still nothing.  Then we switched; he pushed, and I drove.  Finally, I put his car in first gear and we were able to rock it out of the snow.  Hooray!

THEN, when I was home again after my errands, I found the notice on my door saying they had been in to look at the heater.  Turns out there's something wrong, but they're not sure exactly what it is, so in the meantime, they gave me a space heater.  As if that wasn't enough, a little while later the friendly maintenance man stopped by and made sure I was okay, and explained what the problems might be and how/when they might get fixed.  Again, very kind and thoughtful of him.

All of this to say, Minnesota is a great place to live if you want friendly neighbors and the opportunity to "pay it forward".  It's hard to say whether this is Christmas Cheer, or Holiday Spirit, or just the natural human urge to band together against the elements, but it's a pretty amazing feeling-- that you're a part of a network of people who don't even know each other, but support each other all the same.

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