02.19.2021 – Kindness on the Cul-de-Sac

Our house is one of six houses on our cul-de-sac, along with two still-empty lots. The street is one of the reasons we chose this lot on which to have our house built. Cul-de-sac dwellers are quick to point out that they are not living on a dead end street. It’s a short street with circular end. We like living on a cul-de-sac, but it turns out that snowplow drivers don’t like cul-de-sacs at all, because they have to figure out what to do with all the snow that accumulates in the circle at the end of the cul-de-sac.

We had a big snow fall earlier this week, and I was out early shoveling the snow from the driveway and sidewalks. That’s when the snowplow turned into the cul-de-sac. On its first pass by the driveway, the plow left a pile of snow blocking the driveway. I get it. It’s the rule of the game. Sometimes the worst part of shoveling show is getting through the mounds of snow the plow leaves on the apron of the driveway. Big slushy clumps.

But it’s the rule of the game, and there was a lot of snow and the plow drivers had already been out all night. So, I kept shoveling and the plow driver kept plowing. After his second pass down the street – and more snow added to the frozen barricade at the end of our driveway – the driver stopped and got out of the plow to survey the scene. He said something about plowing cul-de-sacs being a difficult task, or words to that effect. I think I said something to commiserate with him, and then thanked him for the work he was doing.

“I try to do my best,” he said.  I got the feeling that he knows that everyone complains about snowplow drivers not getting to their streets early enough and leaving those piles of snow blocking our driveways.

“You’re doing a great job,” I said, as if I know anything about driving a snowplow.

I went back to shoveling and he decided to push the snow from the center cul-de-sac onto one of the empty lots. He finished piling his mountain of snow about the time I started chipping away at the ridge of snow blocking the driveway from the street. And then, as he was leaving the cul-de-sac, he pulled over to where I was shoveling, rolled down his window, and said, “Let me take care of that.”

He wheeled the truck around, and like a craftsman finishing his masterpiece, he guided that big plow just so and moved all the snow that was blocking our driveway over to the mountain he’d made on the empty lot. He’d done his best, and it was good.

And the point of the story? I think it’s about being human. The plow driver and I knew almost nothing about each other. We didn’t know how the other had voted in the recent election or our views on pedobaptism and eschatology or our taste in music or movies. But we were out on a very cold morning dealing with a heavy snowfall. And we exchanged a few understanding and kind words.

The best I could do was to say thank you. The best he could do was extremely kind and spared me a lot of shoveling.

Maybe, just maybe, the pandemic will have taught us to appreciate all those workers who try to do their best. Maybe we’ll learn that kind communication is essential work.

I’m pretty sure the next time it snows I will have to dig out from the pile of snow the plow leaves at the end of the driveway. That’s okay. It’s the rule of the game.

Saint Andrew friends: I am teaching this class again this Sunday.  This week we move into Chapter 5. – vice lists and our true selves.  Join us Sunday at 9:00 a.m.