When I was a child, my family lived in Salt Lake City, Utah. Salt Lake gets a lot of snow and everyone is responsible for removing their own.

Our next door neighbors were an elderly couple–the Hedins. By elderly, I want to make clear that they were both in their 90s when we moved in.

And yet, when it snowed, if we weren’t fast enough, Mr. Hedin would be out there shoveling our snow.

My parents did the only thing they could in the situation–make sure to get up earlier to shovel the Hedin’s snow. I mean, who wants their 90+ year old neighbor shoveling your snow? My parents were in their late thirties, healthy, and had healthy (albeit whiny) children who were all capapble of shoveling snow.

So, any time it snowed, my dad and brothers would be out shoveling before Mr. Hedin could possibly get out there!

Later, we acquired a snow blower and my brother snow-blew (is that a word?) the whole block.

Now, we lived in a rather transient low-income neighborhood. Lots of old houses that had been turned into apartments. Lots of people who came and went (except, of course, the Hedins, who were obviously the original owners of their house). We knew some by sight, some by name, and some not at all.

In retrospect, I’m guessing that neighbor Joe who dressed like he was a cast member in Welcome Back Kotter and spent his days smoking on the porch was probably on the left end of the political spectrum. The guy across the street who named his son Liberty Bell was probably on the right end of the spectrum.

Some of the people on our street were undoubtedly not making good life choices. Some were making seriously bad choices. Some my parents agreed with. Some my parents disagreed with. Some shared our family’s values and some did not.

And you know what? No one cared. Everyone was grateful that my brother and his snow blower cleared off the sidewalks every time it snowed. He may have received some money for his work, but it certainly wasn’t a requirement.

Our family had the snowblower and it would have been considered rude to just snow blow our own length of sidewalk and driveway.

That’s how I was raised.

And so I’ve seen this article where a liberal woman frets about what it means when her “Trumpite” neighbors plowed her driveway, shared around the internet. She worries about what it means.

It means her neighbors own a snow plow and she doesn’t. It means that her neighbors don’t spend time judging people based on what they think before deeming them worthy to have their driveways plowed. It means her neighbors, like my parents and my little brother, saw someone with a need and took care of it.

Try being nice to people you don’t agree with. Heck, try being nice to people without first finding out who they voted for. And if they are horrible people? Who cares? You’ve done something nice and made the world a better place. And if someone does something nice for you? Say thank you. People like this aren’t expecting anything more. It’s just what neighbors do.

Image by Alehandra13 from Pixabay

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24 thoughts on “Shovel Everyone’s Sidewalk

  1. This is fabulous. I love the idea that everyone should be helping each other regardless and not being judgemental.

  2. Your story reminded me…
    During one hurricane season, we had a tropical storm come through.
    Our tree had come down. When we finally went out to see what kind of damage there was, our neighbor was already out there cutting up the tree so that it could be removed.
    Great neighbors!

  3. This is excellent!!! Thank you for sharing this story. It is just so sad to see where we are at in the country right now. People are not judged by their actions, they are now judged by whether they voted for Trump or Biden. I wonder if that woman would say, “let me go shovel their snow, regardless of who they voted for”. I don’t want to bare false witness but I have a suspicion that did not cross her mind.

  4. I grew up on a block where neighbors helped each other out too. I cut the elderly neighbors grass besides shoveling too. And we all helped each other with digging out our snowed in cars on the street. It was how people behave in the neighborhood. We also know each other’s names.

  5. What a refreshing concept – being nice to people. My husband plows out our neighborhood, without expectations and regardless of who they voted for, what they believe in or if their socks match. It’s just what neighbors do.

  6. I’m not sure how we got to the writer in the referenced story being “liberal” or neighbor Joe being “probably on the left end of the political spectrum,” but I’m tired of so many people attempting to politicize everything and continuing to try to demonize those perceived to be somewhere else on the political spectrum. We’re all in this together, folks. Most of the interactions we have with our neighbors have zero to do with politics, blessedly so. Treat others the way you want to be treated. If you mess up, take responsibility and accept the consequences. If someone else transgresses against you, don’t enable their transgression, but hold them accountable, then forgive them and move on. We have a lot more in common than our differences.

  7. Hurrah for your voice of community, civility and most of all sanity.

    This, too is how I was raised. “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” and “You reap what you sow.” (mutated into the concept of Karma now, but….)

    Thank you for a sane voice in a crazy world!

  8. This is such a great reminder. I feel for the woman worrying about “what it means” that her neighbors did something nice for her, though. We’re all experiencing various degrees of social trauma right now, and many of us have cooperated with the divisive media and social media pressure to fear and to fracture. Hopefully, in time we’ll find our way back to just snowblowing for our neighbors again.

  9. I must live on a block of mostly people with TDS because most don’t want help shoveling, don’t want to shovel the sidewalks past the width of a snow shovel but make sure that their cars are all cleaned off throughly, plus get mad if you come with your own shovel to clear the sidewalk better for foot traffic. I am a renter but I help my landlord shovel plus the neighbors next door use their snow blower to create a wide sidewalk from the front of their home all the way to 3 houses past the one I live in. The house next in line in the block uses their snow blower to clear their property and driveway. Same situation with two other houses until the last two buildings that are jointly owned apartment buildings which should have a super to clean up the snow. These have the best cleanup of the cars but the worst sidewalk snow cleanup forcing people to walk in the street to get to the corner. To suggest that snow shoveling and helping your neighbors is political motivated is really pushing the “woke” culture. Please don’t give lazy people another reason to not be responsible adults.

    1. There are a lot of people in the world right now so committed to the fundamental righteousness of their world view that they simply cannot conceive that anyone could possibly disagree with it without being either evil or insane. At both ends of the political spectrum.

    2. Please stop with the gratuitous politicization of that which is not political. That’s part of the problem, not the solution. Snow doesn’t care about partisan affiliations! 🙂

  10. In 1990 we bought a snowblower. We made a commitment that we would do all we could to clear the snow from our neighbor’s sidewalks too. We have done that. With only regular tuneups and minor repairs, this snow blower still works well. We don’t think about who are neighbors are, their life style choices of their political candidate. We think about the snow on their sidewalk and how much easier it is to remove snow with a snowblower verses a shovel.

    1. This is the Way.

      Many members of my family are first responders–EMTs, fire fighters, police officers. They live where the air hurts their faces 5 months out of the year (I moved south until it stopped snowing). What I was taught is that snow and ice make reaching homes in an emergency difficult or impossible. If you have a heart attack, or your grandmother breaks a hip, or you have a carbon monoxide issue (not uncommon during winter), you don’t want the first responders needing to shovel your driveway before they can rescue you!!! I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it always felt like there was a spike in medical emergencies in the winter, too. And it’s not just old people–for example, young people in their first home seem to have more issues with carbon monoxide, as they tend to be more rigorous about winterizing their homes.

      To put it bluntly: People who are more concerned about the political affiliation of the person clearing their sidewalks than they are about having cleared sidewalks may as well put up a sign that reads “I’d rather die than be saved by a [insert party affiliation here]”. If you’re not willing to put up such a sign, the proper response to someone of opposing political affiliation clearing your sidewalk/driveway is “Thank you”, and maybe offering them a cup of coffee and a doughnut.

  11. What this boils down to is a violation of expectations. The lady expects Trump supporters to be monsters incapable of empathy or seeing beyond their immediate desires. Shoveling another person’s sidewalk is evidence of empathy and larger-scale thinking (ie, it helps everyone if the sidewalks are clear, so I’ll clear them even if there’s no immediate and obvious benefit to me).

    This is where an application of the scientific method to interpersonal relationships is handy. You have a working hypothesis of how Trump supporters work. You have data that contradict that hypothesis. The data aren’t wrong (they can’t be wrong), so your hypothesis must be.

    In this case, an older model for political behavior works better than the newer ones. According to the view I was taught growing up, we’re all just people advocating for what we think is best for our country, our state, our cities, and our neighborhoods. The Left and Right have different ideas on what constitutes “best” and on the methods to achieve it, but at the end of the day we have the same general goal. If you use this model, the observed behavior is easy to explain: Dude thought it was best for everyone to have clean sidewalks, and maybe enjoyed the activity (maybe he can’t get to the gym, so he’s using this to get exercise–something I’ve done many times), so he helped his neighbors. The satisfaction of taking a concrete step towards what he thinks of as a better outcome is the justification for the action.

  12. Hallelujah and amen. Suzanne, you and many of your commenters are SO RIGHT. Let’s get back there – PLEASE.

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