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Being Kind Matters

Sarah Shoveling SnowTuesday morning as I was shoveling our driveway after the non-blizzard-blizzard of 2015, a small, but meaningful, gesture reminded me about the importance of kindness.

It was about 5:30 in the morning, still dark, and with the wind-chill, it felt like 6 degrees. Or at least that’s what my iPhone told me as I bundled up to head out into the cold. I’d had a warm cup of coffee, sent out my morning e-mail, and I knew I had to head out there. The snowfall was much (much!) less than predicted, so I knew my husband would be heading into work.

One thing I’ve learned about shoveling while living on the East Coast is that it’s important to shovel before the car dives over the snow. Once that happens, the snow gets so stuck to the pavement that it will eventually ice over and cause mayhem for a good few weeks. It’s annoying, but it keeps me motivated to get out there as quickly as possible to get that white fluff out of the way.

So, armed with coffee, hat, gloves, boots and a coat, I headed out into the dark to start the process. Don’t get me wrong. I like being out there in the quiet. It’s great exercise, it’s peaceful, and well, it’s hard work.

And you know what the hardest part of the driveway is? Shoveling that 10 feet in between the end of the driveway and shoveled pavement of the street. Because what inevitably happens, is the snowplows drive by and create a lovely wall of snow at the end of the driveway that the car either has to drive over, through, or yours truly has to shovel. Those of you that get to enjoy snow in the winter know what I’m taking about. It’s a drag. That snow is heavy with dirt and salt, and it’s hard to pick up.

At about 6:10, I’d cleaned off half of the driveway, including those lovely 10 feet at the end. As I’m heaving shovelful after shovelful, I see the flashing yellow lights, and I hear the rumbling of the snow plow as it heads up my street.

I look over, and sure enough….a new wall of snow, right where I’d just shoveled. I took a deep breath, and kept going on with my work. I knew I’d just have to go back and to that part again.


But then I heard the snowplow back up. I looked over, and watched in surprise as the driver cleared out the wall he’d just made.

Then he backed up again, and cleaned it even more. After about 2 minutes, he’d cleared out what would have taken me a good 20.

Blizzard 2015My instinct was to run up and hug him, but I knew that might be just a little bit inappropriate. I was just so grateful! I mean, look at that driveway to the left! So clean!

Then I thought about making him hot chocolate, or getting him a cup of coffee…but in the 0.2 seconds it took me to have all of these thoughts, I knew that waving and yelling, “Thank you so much!” was probably enough.

He smiled at me and waved. He rolled down his window and yelled back, “You’re welcome! And good morning!”

As I spent the next 45 minutes finishing the driveway I kept thinking about this little act over and over again. I write often about how important it is for us to be kind to strangers. A smile can make someone’s day, and we have no idea what’s going on with them, and how much our smile can matter.

Perhaps they’ve just received bad news, or fought with a loved one. Maybe they’re suicidal and our eye-contact and smile let’s them know that someone saw them and they find the strength to hang on one more day. We don’t know the impact, but here’s what we do know:

We love it when someone is kind to us.
It’s free – hello. How much in life is free these days?
When we’re kind, we receive the same does of “happy” hormones that the recipient receives. It’s truly a win-win.

There is no downside to being kind, and my hope for all of us is that we engage in it more.

That extra 2 minutes from that driver absolutely changed my day and made me smile through some heavy lifting. Whoever you are, kind driver, this woman thanks you through her sore back and tired hands. You made a difference for me, and I hope someone does the same for you today.

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