Sometimes what we really need is a common enemy. Winter has given us one. Dare I say this pummeling from winter has made us all just a little more hospitable, a bit more friendly, and a touch more neighborly?
Then again, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's just that our mouths have been too frozen to yell and our arms too stiff to gesture. Maybe we're so tired of that burning sensation deep in our lungs and the icicles clinging to our nose hairs that we're losing our will to live.
When I topped off the gas tank before the big one hit, the station was a mass of cars, each and every one of which had obviously agreed to abide by a system of utter and total chaos. Cars were lined up in both directions, double parked, engines running, exhaust billowing, bumper-to-bumper and nose-to-nose. Sandwiched in at the pump after my tank was full, the driver behind me got out of his car and cheerfully asked if it would help if he backed up?
Of course, it would help if he backed up. But for him to back up, the car behind him would have to back up, and the car behind him would back up. And then it happened, like the Rockettes doing a contagion of high kicks, one car after another backed up without a single blaring horn.
At the hardware store the woman in front of me was buying lamp oil and wicks. The cashier said she had one of those old lamps but didn't know how to use it. The woman patiently gave her a tip or two.
The elderly man who insisted I get in line in front of him was stocking up on candles and batteries. The necessity I was struggling with was a 20-pound bag of birdseed.
The birds have been in a feeding frenzy this winter, storing up for each successive blast of ice and snow. Finches, cardinals, and nuthatches bob for seeds, shell them, devour the seed and spit the shells on the ground. They must think I'm running a Texas Roadhouse.
Even the birds have been mellowed by this knockout winter. Juncos are hopping about in the veil of snow that blankets the ice, leaving faint tracks. Maybe I have been snow blinded but it looks as though they've spelled out the words "thank you."
The cold may be piercing but the kindness is contagious.
On more than a few of these snowy days, our neighbor to the right with a snow blower has cleared his own driveway, rounded the corner, cleared his sidewalk, crossed our drive, and cleared our sidewalk too.
The husband has gone out to shovel, cleared our drive, seen the cleared path in front of our house, picked up where the neighbor left off, shoveled the next neighbor's walk,and cleared a path to his front door.
A neighbor on the west end of the block called to see if we were OK, I called a neighbor to the east, and a neighbor across the street called us. We don't talk this much when it's full sun, blue skies, the grass is green, and we're all outside mowing.
Old Man Winter thought he'd do us in, but he only made us stronger.
Lori Borgman is a columnist, author, and speaker from Indiana.
Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org