The Value of Being Neighborly

I’m a day late and a dollar short on this blog. This year, I intended to spend time on the weekends and post each Monday. We’re still in January and I’m already posting a day late. I’m not exactly a dollar short though – I’m actually up a few dollars, unintentionally. Let’s dig in – or rather – out.

We’ve had some snow here in central Ohio. I love the snow. I embrace it and the cold of winter. I could handle longer daylight hours in the winter months, but I’ve largely found that the more I embrace the winter as it comes, the more I get out of it. A few years ago, I noticed my better half was increasing her distaste for winter weather. As such, I started scheduling time for us to go out into the winter weather while appropriately dressed for the conditions. What’s that saying? “There’s no such thing as bad weather, merely bad preparation.” Something like that. I’m happy to report, dear reader, that my diabolical plan worked. I wouldn’t say that my wife Melanie embraces the cold and snow like I do – yet – however, she has found a joy for downhill skiing and figures out how we can make time for it.

Snow and cold don’t work for everyone though. The slippery conditions can be hazardous to the less mobile and arthritic joints don’t love the colder temps. So I recognize that my embrace of winter is not the same for everyone at all stages of life. Last night, I saw a couple of neighbors post on our neighborhood Facebook group that they needed help shoveling their driveways. After I took care of my chores at home, I had time to either write a Monday blog post, or help my neighbors. I chose the latter.

I reached out per the message’s instructions and confirmed that no one else had agreed to help. After all, I don’t want to get in the way of some industrious middle- or high-schooler looking to make some valuable spending money. After confirming that my neighbors did not have any scheduled helpers, I told them I was coming to take care of their driveway. They immediately asked about payment. “No charge,” I simply replied. They politely protested. “I must pay you something.” “It is too late for you, don’t come in the dark.” I smiled and walked down with my snow shovel and quietly got started. I was already dressed in my cold weather gear from walking our dogs, so I was honestly enjoying my time out.

Two-thirds of the way through the job, the garage door opened. A venerable Indian man walked out to greet me with cash in hand. I politely protested, “I just want to be a good neighbor.” “Please,” he replied. “I won’t sleep if you don’t let me pay you for your efforts.” Now that I’m a bit older and marginally wiser, I handled this situation with a touch of poise. Younger Troy would have not taken the money and perhaps said something that took away from the dignity of the situation. Instead, I deferred and took the money. I don’t need the money, nor do I want it. However, not taking it would have made the other person feel indebted or obliged – also not what I wanted. So, I ended up getting my target step count per my fitness tracker, I helped a neighbor in need, I got some joyful time in the snow, and I earned a few unintended bucks. Well worth a late blog post!

Now the question is what to do with the money. I’ve put it in my sock drawer for now and plan to use it as ‘seed money’ to do something else positive for the neighborhood. Maybe if I shovel enough driveways this winter, I can buy some extra flowers for the flower bed at the entrance of our neighborhood in the Spring. It will be a fun, neighborly experiment!

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