Saturday, January 24, 2015

What Goes Around Comes Around

"What Goes Around Comes Around." When I was a kid and my mom would say this, I didn't get it. This folk wisdom only made sense if you were talking about colds or chicken pox. If it was going around, it would eventually come around to me. Yippee.

Now, of course, I see what the saying means: You get back something akin to what you give. Maybe not exactly what you gave, or immediately, but it does indeed come back.

If you know me, you know I struggle with my weight, especially in winter when all there is is the cursed treadmill and snow needing removal. I have a longstanding deal with myself that if I shovel snow, whether for fifteen minutes or two hours, I don't have to exercise that day in any other way. On the average, it works out, and we have the clearest driveway in the neighborhood, even though our neighbors all use plow services.

Once or twice each winter, some plow service driver will see me working with the heavy snow the town's big plow has thrown across the foot of the driveway. He'll gesture me to move back and he'll clear it in one or two passes. This is a lovely thing to do, saving me the worst part of the job and letting him feel good about himself for the day, because even though it took him literally two minutes, he really did do me a favor. And I'm genuinely grateful for it each time it happens.

Today, though, was different. I was at the end of the driveway, working it slow and steady, when a truck stopped and a big man in a sweatshirt got out.

I knew this guy. The spring and summer we had the dumpster in the driveway, he'd come to the door and gestured that he wanted to go in it, and once I understood, I'd let him. He returned several times, removing metal and anything else he could resell. He borrowed a broom the one time his taking something made a bit of a mess. If I saw him stop, I'd wave. Once on a really hot day when I saw him sweating profusely, I'd brought him a glass of cold water in a disposable cup. This was not exactly going to a lot of trouble.

Now he gestured for me to hand him the shovel, and I did. He cleared the base of the driveway with the ease of a big person who uses his weight to push. I thanked him--he seems to understand "Thank you!"--and he waved at me to step back.

He started to shovel the whole driveway. Two cars wide. Heavy snow, since it was over thirty degrees. I got the spare shovel and joined in the work. He gestured for me to hand him that shovel, and he worked one with each hand. In less than ten minutes, he'd cleared away the bulk of the snow, working up a good sweat. Could I pay him? I gestured. No, no. "Thank you. Thank you!"

"Thank you," he said, then returned to his car and drove away.

I tidied up the edges, thinking about him. I'd not gone out of my way much to be kind, but I'd certainly not been unkind, as I imagine some people are to trash pickers wanting a shot at their dumpsters. I thought he might be Turkish. Weren't they nearly all Muslims? Maybe he had his own agenda, showing Americans that people like him were good people, not terrorists. Or maybe he had the notion that women should not be doing such heavy physical labor, and shoveling was proving himself the man.

I suppose I'll never know. But I like to think he did it because he's a good man who remembers copper pipe, a medicine cabinet, and a glass of water.