As the reluctant superintendent of my apartment building, a job that I generally despise, it is my responsibility to shovel the snow in front of the building. At the height of the storm, I’d shoveled twice, hoping to eat away at the task little by little in order to avoid the inevitable heart attack that would come from shoveling 12+ inches of thick heavy snow all at once.
It was a foolish idea, of course, and Sisyphus would have had more success, because the storm indeed my efforts almost immediately each time. 30 minutes after shoveling, my front walk was undiscernable from the adjacent buildings whose supers had far more sense than I and knew a stupid gesture when they saw it.
The next afternoon, after the blizzard had finally moved on and after several hours of avoidance, with a sinking heart I set out to the task, my heart pre-emptively seizing up in anticipation of the difficulty. The situation was worse than I’d anticipated, with snow so high that I couldn’t discern the three stops leading down from the front door. Oy vey.
At that moment, I was approached by four neighborhood children ranging in age from, I’d say, nine to fifteen years old, three girls and a boy. They asked me if I’d like some help, and initially I declined because, although I dearly wanted the help, I was also having a very tight week financially and couldn’t easily afford to part with any money. I thanked them and declined, saying that I simply couldn’t afford it, and that’s when these veritable angels informed me that they didn’t want money. They just wanted to help.
Flabbergasted, I, of course, gratefully received their assistance, and we proceeded to make short work of the job, shoveling clear in twenty minutes a job that would have easily taken me 90 minutes on my own. All the while their good cheer and friendliness was heart-warming. I have to admit that I’ve grown somewhat trepidatious with younger people nowadays. In many instances, I’m embarassed to admit that I fear them, especially in packs. For one thing I like things quiet, and kids in packs tend to be rowdy and loud, especially on the subway, and this makes me nervous.
These kids were so generous and so helpful that I hope I will always remember their goodwill whenever I encounter a wandering group of young people in the future, realizing reflexively that in all likelihood these will be good kids, too.
Oh, and then on top of their help with my front walk, they also helped me to dig out my car from the snow bank in which it had been buried. The car job, in fact, was arguably more difficult and more time consuming than the apartment building had been, and they just had so much energy! I couldn’t thank them enough. They joked with each other about how much they hoped that school would be called off on Monday, though they weren’t optimistic about this possibility. I hoped they would receive that minimal reward for their generosity. Before they left me, called away to dinner by their respective mothers, I handed the nearest girl every bill I had in my wallet, which amounted to a relatively measely $28. This lovely young girl who took the money (her name escapes me — I just can’t retain multiple names very well) was charmingly awestruck by the amount. I didn’t know that $28 could still impress anyone nowadays, and I was glad to see it.
I did worry that, by giving them the money, I deprived them of the full experience of doing what they did entirely out of charity, which I realize might have been a better and more rewarding experience for them, ultimately. However, they offered to help for free, and they did the work without expecting anything in return. Maybe receiving a reward without any expectation of such is a fine enough experience on its own.
In any event, I was fortunate to be blessed by their help, and I hope they are all sleeping the sleep of the safe and the loved. God bless them.