The snow that overwhelmed the Washington area yesterday has left behind great beauty as well as an indicator of what is essentially wrong with American society. I know that's a lot to pin on a weather event, but I believe it's true. Let me preface this by saying few people in the DC area are natives, and many of us are rattled by a few inches of the frozen stuff. Over the course of 24 hours, we were slammed with anywhere between 15-20 inches of snow. It literally shut down public transportation, restaurants and shops, postal and newspaper delivery. Forced to remain in our homes, many people baked or cleaned or wrapped gifts or shopped online. I decided in late afternoon to shovel the sidewalk in front of my home so I could make a dent in the blizzard-like drifts.
This morning dawned clear and bright. A picture postcard day with snow covering cars and roads. But it is also the last weekend day before Christmas and my neighbors were hard at work shoveling their cars out of the snow left by nature and by the snowplows. No easy task. I noticed that my portion of the sidewalk is the only one that's been shoveled as I joined the masses clearing a way for their cars to hit the road. At one point, I walked over to my neighbor who never shovels his walk as he was working hard on freeing his car.
"Are you going to shovel your sidewalk?" I asked, indicating where my property line ended as did visible pavement. "No," he replied. "I'm not planning to use it." I pointed out that our stretch of the block leads to the elementary school -- which his children attend -- and that a cleared sidewalk meant they wouldn't have to walk in the street. He shrugged and said he didn't think he would have time to do it as he returned to digging out his car.
I hope I am not turning into Mrs. Kravitz the judgmental neighbor, but it seems to me that snow affords us a good opportunity to care for one another. We can shovel for our neighbor who is elderly and homebound, we can bake extra cookies for the mom stuck at home with small children, and we can make it possible for pedestrians to navigate safely. Community is about everyone doing their part to keep things going. It's about sharing the responsibility as we share in the rewards.
The best of America is reflected in our can-do spirit, our ability to pick ourselves -- and each other -- up and dust ourselves off after things go awry. We are a country that has been blessed with many gifts which, it seems to me, requires us to share. That's why the current health care bill is so pathetic -- it could have been written by my neighbor. I'm not planning to use a public option... my kids don't need CHIP -- so why should I bother? Don't get me started on greenhouse gases! The point is that whether we're talking about shoveling a sidewalk so others don't get hurt or about providing decent health care to all Americans -- we are a nation that could use a big dose of altruism this season. But it's not coming down the chimney -- it needs to come from the heart of each of us.