Sunday, March 19, 2006

It's a Mitzvah

I got stuck in my driveway coming home on Monday after the big storm, and had to dig around my car to get it unstuck and into the garage. I went in, planning to dig out the driveway later, after some food and a break, but when I thought to go dig, I saw that one of my neighbors had snowblown!

After the snow later in the week, I made it all the way into the garage, and went out to dig out after a shorter break. One of my neighbors was snowblowing his drive, and we waved at each other. When he finished his place, he crossed over and began on the really nasty icy stuff in my drive that the city plow always leaves on the side of every street. It was so nasty that he decided to start from the upper end of the drive so he could use the machine's weight to help break up the ice or something.

Now, most snowblowers have a blower part that spews snow 4-5 feet up and to the side. My neighbor's snowblower, however, blows it about 15 feet up, and a good 20 feet to the side. Let's just say I read way too much psych theory and leave it at that.

I asked if he'd done the drive on Monday, explaining that I didn't know who to thank, but he said it wasn't him, and that maybe it was the neighbor next to him.

It took him a good 5-10 minutes to clear what would have taken me an hour or more. Now that's a good neighbor!

My neighbors since I've moved to the midwest tend to quietly do nice things like clear snow, or offer extra bulbs during fall splitting/planting. I've lived mostly in areas with youngish families and kids, or older retired folks, and I don't really fit, but everyone's friendly enough. In winter, we wave while digging, maybe chat a bit about the snow and weather. When I had a dog, I had lots of friendly dog conversations, since every little kid seems to want to pet a big dog, and my dog adored little kids and pretty much everyone else. (What does it mean that I remember my neighbor's dogs' names, and not their kids' names?)

When I lived in my urban grad school city, I went to my neighborhood watch sponsored block barbeque one day, and one of my neighbors commented on how weird it was that my roommate and I were the only two women over 18 on the street who didn't have babies. She wasn't actually right, there were at least a couple others without kids, but the overwhelming majority did have kids. (Let's just say we weren't exactly living in the hip student neighborhood.)

Mostly, my interactions with my neighbors in the city were good. One of my neighbors at one apartment was an older woman who would occasionally ask me to help her with some little thing around her apartment, which was in my 7 unit complex. And so off I'd go, to change a bulb or something simple, yet difficult for her.

When I'd finished, she'd tell me it was a Mitzvah and we'd often have a cup of tea and chat. (Now, I'm an ignoramus about Yiddish, so she had to explain to me that a Mitzvah is a blessing, and that I was blessed for being helpful, and she was blessed to have me around.) Ever since I learned that, I love the saying. I'm not religious, but nonetheless, I want to say to my neighbors who snowblow my drive, "thank you, it's a Mitzvah."