By Adam Glick
This winter Boston set a record for snow and cold. We had nearly 5 feet of snow in 3 weeks and the temperatures were frequently below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. We live in the residential part of the city, so parking is typically a challenge. With that much snow everywhere, it was even more of a challenge. During one storm, on a Sunday night, my partner and I ventured out with our shovels to shovel out his car so that he could get out the next morning. The car was 6 blocks away, since finding spaces had been a challenge in previous days. While we were shoveling out the car, fighting frostbite and aching backs, a man in his 50’s approached us and asked if we were looking for work to shovel out a car. During storms, neighborhood kids walk around with shovels to make some extra money. We explained that we weren’t out to make money, just shoveling out one car (which was quite a challenge). He offered to hire us, but we declined, as we had a lot more work to do on our car and we were quite cold and tired already. When we finished about 40 minutes later, we were frozen! On our way home, we walked by the same man, next to his car, looking a bit helpless and frustrated. He explained that there were no people around to hire and that he had a bad back and could he please hire us to help him. My partner and I just started shoveling and said, no need to pay us, just “pay it forward” or do something nice for someone else. He instantly lit up. He couldn’t stop thanking us and kept asking us what he could do for us or how much he could pay us. “Nothing. just pay it forward” was all I kept saying. We learned that he was a school teacher and that he had lived 6 blocks from us for the past 10 years or more. When we finally finished, we wished him well and started to leave. He followed us and kept insisting on doing something nice for us. We kept saying “no thanks” until it became clear that it was causing him to feel considerable distress and bad about himself. He said, please let me buy you a drink at least across the street.
We eventually accepted and warmed up in our local neighborhood restaurant with a drink and appetizer. He felt good, leaving with a smile on his face, we felt good in a warm place with food and drink and the folks at the restaurant felt good witnessing this interaction between these 2 neighborhood regulars who had previously not met. On our walk home we passed one more woman whose car was stuck in the snow and we instinctively started digging in with our shovels and pushing her car from behind until it was able to move forward. It took us 5 minutes and changed her mood and the course of her night instantly. Sometimes these snowy winters can be an opportunity to meet neighbors, help others and put a little good out there in the world on a snowy night.