Hard to believe that all of January went by without a blog post, but when you have your wife’s birthday, rebuilding your website, and then this past week the “Blizzard of 2011,” things can get hectic. There is more on my brain to share, more posts already in the works, and more things I plan to do in this blog, I promise.
For now, just a note about community. I live in what I suppose would be considered a small city, on the corner of two fairly busy streets. It’s the sort of corner where you can stand and point in three different directions to have a straight line to the police station, hospital, or fire department. We are the crossroads; if there were a center to this town, other than downtown, this would be it. It’s not inner-city by any–and I mean any–stretch of the imagination. But it is the city.
The neighborhood is old. I’d have to look up the exact date in the city’s records to know how old our house is, but I do know that I found newspaper dated from 1913 that had been stuffed between the studs in the crawlspace beneath our kitchen. And that part of the house feels, to me, as something that was added sometime after the original foundation of the house was laid. So this neighborhood is old. Many owners have moved away from this part of town, and most of the homes around us are rentals, or at least partial rentals.
None of those ingredients lends itself toward a strong community, the sort romanced as urban mythos. The sort best photographed in black and white.
We’ve kept to ourselves.
But when nearly twenty-four inches of snow piles on the easement you share with two other houses, when you look up from your shoveling (is that really the third scoop you took from this one spot, and all without yet seeing the pavement beneath?) and realize that you’re not the only one cursed by the storm and crazy enough to be out in the cold and arrogant enough to know better where all this snow should lie … well, community starts looking a whole lot better.
Adversity breeds comradery. Wednesday morning, I and the men of the houses around ours, rentals and owners and visiting grandfathers and brothers alike, though not sharing a common language found ourselves sharing a common enemy.
And we attacked.
We were a rolling, ad hoc, snow demolishing brigade. We moved from vehicle to vehicle, from pathway to sidewalk. Cars got stuck turning out of the alleyway across the street, or turning at the corner, or just plain stuck in their drives with their drivers now wandering up to us wondering if we could help. I smiled, at the time, thinking how handy a crew like this would have been the last time I got stuck. Six guys with shovels. Put one of those in your vehicle’s emergency kit. Maybe they come in an inflatable variety.
Four hours later, wet and exhausted, we retired. All tolled, we freed thirteen vehicles and shoveled about fifty tons of snow, give or take.
And I have never felt more a part of a community.