It gives us a chance to help our neighbors, or sometimes just to meet them.
During the late January snow, I met two neighbors who were shoveling snow from around other people's vehicles. They cleared their own spots and put their excess energy to good use. I pitched in.
With our work done, we stood and talked awhile. It was a worthwhile conversation after some good hard work. It was rewarding to get to know my neighbors.
My experience was not unique that Thursday night.
A lot of people had reason to appreciate their neighbors. More than 100 recipients of neighborly good will called The Herald-Mail to share their experiences in a feature called Snow Angels. Here are two from Hagerstown readers that made me feel good about our area:
- "I'm a widow ... disabled and in my 70s, and I'd just like to thank my snow angel, Larry, for clearing out my driveway, my porch, my sidewalk, and they're just new neighbors, and I really, really thank God for sending me a snow angel like him. He and his wife are very wonderful people. I'd just like to say thank you, Larry."
- "I would like to recognize my snow angel on Noland Drive. The snow was very difficult to clear, and I watched him take two steps forward and one step back, and I really appreciate his help. Sometimes the other neighbors help, too, but thank you so much. His name is Pete."
These snow angels didn't wait for anyone to ask for help. They saw people they could help, and they took action.
Some people are generous and kind in good weather and bad.
That's a good pattern for all of us to follow, to avoid the trappings of a rushed routine and find ways to get to know our neighbors and help in small ways whether the sun is shining or the snow is dropping.
But for those of us who need to be reminded, a major storm always has a way of slowing everything else down and providing perspective.
When the weather gets extremely bad, you reassess things.
That's what happened to my family one late spring during my childhood in northwestern Pennsylvania. Several tornadoes hit the area — one close enough that we could see it from our driveway. There was no warning system for those of us not watching TV or listening to the radio. We just saw the sky change — fast.
As we huddled in the basement to wait it out, all other distractions forgotten, we thought of what really mattered — family, friends and our neighbors' safety.
When we emerged, phones were down, and we drove to neighbors' homes to see that everyone was OK. It was a shared experience and neighbors again were there for each other.
I try not to forget those moments after storms. That is an opportunity to make a difference.
Hectic schedules and an overabundance of technological gadgets invite us to live insular lives, connecting less with those immediately outside our spheres, but as the snow angels showed, good things happen when we know and help our neighbors.
And neighbors are the foundation of community.
Jake Womer is executive editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-722-5131, ext. 7594, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.