To Blow or Not to Blow?
In the category of “Ridiculous Thoughts That I Waste My Energy On” is the question of snowblowing the sidewalk in front of our neighbor’s house. We have an ordinance in our village that requires people to shovel the sidewalks in front of their homes. Having formerly lived on a corner lot that also was the location for the elementary school bus stop I know that shoveling or snow blowing can be time consuming during very snowy winters. However, there are many services one can hire to remove snow should you not want to do it yourself. Given that we live 2 blocks from an elementary school and 4 blocks from a high school, we have elderly neighbors who walk places, our postal workers walk their deliveries and almost every neighbor has at least one dog they walk several times a day, keeping the sidewalks clear for pedestrians is important to other neighbors and me.
We used to shovel, not wanting to spend a lot of money for a pricey snow blower. Then our neighbors across the street, who had a top of the line, brand new snow blower, wheeled it across the street one July day and said, “We’re moving to Texas and won’t need this. You’ve been a great neighbor and we’d like you to have this.” In a Pay-It-Forward moment Bill and I decided that whenever possible we’d use it to snow blow the whole block because it was so fast with this enormous snow blower.
In our current house there are 3 homes on our side of the block. We’re in the middle. The friendly neighbors to our right snowblow sometimes and occasionally we’ll wake up to hear them blowing the snow in front of our house and theirs in repayment for us having done the same. In four winters we’ve lived on this block, I think I’ve only seen the neighbor to the left clear snow twice. It bugs me. I mean it really bugs me, especially when there’s 2 ft of snow on the sidewalk and people have to walk in the street because they can’t walk down the sidewalk. They have a snowblower, are able-bodied AND clearly could afford to hire a service. It’s a choice for them and it’s not one I like.
So here’s my After-Every-Snowfall dilemma: should I blow their sidewalks for benefit of everyone else in the neighborhood or does that just enable them to not comply with village ordinances? Should I just wait and hope they get so many tickets that at some point they will change? Then I realize that people rarely change. Other neighbors walking dogs have seen me snowblowing the snowy sidewalks and have thanked me because they too are frustrated having to walk in the slushy and icy street because the sidewalks aren’t clear.
All of us have petty irritations like this. In the end I generally end up blowing the neighbors’ sidewalks because I feel bad for everyone else who’s just trying to deliver a package, walk a dog or walk to school without having to wade through a foot of snow. So I’m trying to find a way to visualize a new way to think about this irritation that’s more positive. Can I take pride in having a block that’s easy and safe for pedestrians after a big snow? Can I focus on my love for dogs and decide I want them to have a street that’s comfortable for them for walks? Can I remember the suffering of the postal worker who broke his collarbone and the friend who broke her leg because a neighbor didn’t shovel or remove ice in front of their homes? I’m determined to be mindful this year of the dialog in my head. If I’m spending 10 minutes of a beautiful winter day being frustrated with neighbors who will never change, I’m the loser.