You see, I have some phenomenal neighbors. One in particular warrants mentioning.
There’s a guy who lives across the street from my wife and I. We’ll call him Larry, because that’s his name. He has lived there ever since we moved in, but our interactions had never progressed beyond the occasional hand wave as one or the other of us was leaving to go somewhere. We had never even really spoken.
That all changed with the first epic storm of 2015. As I was outside struggling to move shovelful after shovelful of blowing whiteness off my sidewalk and out of my driveway, I saw Larry across the street, snowblowing his driveway and that of his next-door neighbor. I thought little of it, other than perhaps a twinge of envy at his possession of said snowblower and the occasional regretful curse-filled muttering at my own hubristic failure to procure one.
And then, roaring across the street through the blowing snow…it was Larry. Larry who came over completely unprompted and offered to clear out the rapidly-freezing slushpile deposited at the end of my driveway by our (hardworking and blameless) city plowmen. Not content to stop there, he also cleaned up our front sidewalk and a significant portion of the driveway.
He did this not because he was asked or because he expected any sort of personal gain. He did it because he wanted to help.
Every snowstorm since then (and heaven knows there have been plenty) Larry has trundled his snowblower across the street and cleared us out. Over the course of these past few weeks, we have offered him small tokens of our appreciation – jars of homemade jams and relishes and the like – and every time, he has expressed surprise. Like he couldn’t imagine why we were giving him something; he was just being neighborly.
(Just as a by the way – Larry, if you’re reading this, don’t think we’ve forgotten your expression of enjoyment regarding rhubarb. You better believe that there’s a big old pie coming with your name on it.)
And Larry is far from the only one. Heck, there’s another guy on our street who takes it upon himself to clear off a big stretch of the sidewalk – more than a quarter of the block is walkable because of him (he got a jar of jam too, in case you’re wondering).
I have no doubt that this community is filled with Larrys, people who have gone out of their way to make things easier for their neighbors. Maybe you helped clear the snow from a neighbor’s driveway. Maybe you checked in on an elderly neighbor. Maybe you cooked a casserole. Maybe you gave someone a ride and kept them out of the cold. Maybe you helped someone cross an icy street. Or maybe you just had a kind word on a gloomy, snowy day.
It’s easy for us to lock ourselves away in our insular little worlds, particularly when the weather forces us inside. To those out there making the effort to reach out and make things just a little bit easier for those around them, I salute you.
Here’s to you, Larry. The world could use a few more like you.
(2017 note: I have since gotten a snowblower of my own and do my best to continue paying it forward, clearing out long lengths of sidewalk and helping remove the slush from the end of my next-door neighbor’s driveway. I’m trying my best to be a Larry … and so should you.)