It snowed 18 inches in Pennsylvania today. The entire countryside was covered with a heavy quilt of wet snow that looked like a classic Andrew Wyeth painting. Everything in my area shut down and no one went to work. Schools and offices were closed. People were warm in their houses by their welcoming fireplaces.
My wife and myself dressed in all our winter gear and grabbed our snow shovels and went outside this afternoon to dig out our long driveway. Just as we were starting to dig, our neighbor pulled up on his Bob Cat vehicle, and plowed our drive way in less than 15 minutes. We just stood there waving and watched him with huge smiles on our faces. When he was done, we went over to thank him and I introduced my wife to Leon.
I thanked him and my wife thanked him at least three more times. He responded said with a smile and little shrug and said quietly “I like to help my neighbors.” We offered to pay him and he adamantly refused, as if payment was an offensive thought. We plan to take a tray of homemade cookies over to him later tonight to show him our appreciation. Once he was done, he plowed my neighbor’s driveway and then every single driveway in sight. Every single one. Many neighbors he had never met and didn’t know.
I admit I did not know Leon and didn’t know his name until today.
Here is a question I thought about: When did we stop being kind to our neighbors? When did we stop knowing our neighbors? When did we stop being neighborly?
I remember when I was a kid, we all knew our neighbors. Neighbors took care of neighbors. If someone was sick we took them over food. We watched their house when they were out of town. No I am not just imaging that in the glow of nostalgia, it really happened.
Why are we disconnected from our neighbors? Is it because we are too busy? It is the advent of technology? Do we feel more comfortable “friending” people on Facebook behind a screen? It is that we don’t trust a stranger? Have we seen too many shows about crime on TV? I have noticed after disasters like 911 and Columbine, we all pull together as neighbors and reconnect to humanity around us. At some point, we go back to our compartmentalized lives. We stop being neighbors again.
I learned for Leon that we need to make more effort to connect to our neighbors again. I saw the sheer joy and happiness on everyone’s faces at being shown an act of simple kindness. It was in Leon’s face too.
I am going to challenge you today. Let’s all learn a lesson from Leon. Pick one neighbor and go over and introduce yourself. Do a small favor for one neighbor. Bring in their trash cans from the curb for them. Shovel your sidewalk and then their sidewalk too. It is a lesson we have all forgotten, and if everyone remembered it today, imagine what a world this could be. It all starts one hand to one hand, one neighbor to one neighbor. Leon would be happy to know he had that impact.