By the end of February, 2015, the weight of snow upon snow had changed the psyche for people in the Boston area. It led to a summer that felt extra sweet to many who remembered lost days of work, narrow streets with no place to park, long and crowded rides on MBTA trains.
Throughout February, the snow pile at end of our little street grew and grew, creeping higher and wider, pushing against the six foot high chain link fence at the park edge and bending it askew. Eventually the pile was more that heavy plows could push, and its girth stretched halfway across the entrance to our driveway. Dutifully, we shoveled, heaving snow up and over with the hope of always having a bit more space to put the next storm’s load, trying to leave a space wide enough for our car to squeeze through.
One day, shoveling and sweating despite the cold and wind, I felt a deep sense of gratitude. I realized how lucky and privileged I am. I was able to be outdoors. I was able to shovel and work up a sweat. My body was able, and I knew that will not always be the case. Though, the aquarium where I work was closed, my income would not be reduced. Despite a consistent feeling of being busy and behind in my work and in attending to family needs, I was able to take time to shovel the walks down to pavement that the next sunny day could dry.
On another occasion, I was able to talk briefly with a snowplow driver. He was doing his best with a giant rig that had a fixed blade – the kind that always pushes snow to the right-hand side of the road such that it plows in our driveway even though there’s no driveway to be blocked on the other side of the street. I watched as he tried several times to place the blade down and pull snow away from our driveway. I hadn’t asked him to do that, but I waved to thank him. His window was open, so I called hello. Meanwhile a child was walking by on her way home from sledding, so he stopped to wait for her. In that moment, I acknowledged what a challenging job he has. He said, yes, that he’s been plowing for 23 hours and hadn’t had a chance to go home and shovel out his own driveway. And he said many people are pushing snow back onto the road after he’s plowed. On another occasion, I watched a plow driver hop out with a small shovel to clear a front gate for a neighbor who I know to be elderly. I don’t know whether he knows her or not, but I witnessed his act of kindness.
I’m grateful every day. Moments like these, sometimes amidst conditions that could be a recipe for supreme frustration, can be triggers for appreciation and gratitude.