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Communal Adventure

By: Dr. Jim Goldstein

Communal AdventureI live on a quiet little street in North Potomac, MD. Most of the time, this is an advantage. Very few cars come by because we aren’t a thoroughfare to any other street. The one disadvantage is that we usually are the last street in the county to get plowed when it snows. This last monster storm left us in the wilderness from Friday until Tuesday afternoon…nary of car track to be seen. I had the thought, a couple of times, to just go out there and use my snow shovel to clear the street but I thought I would surely kill or injure myself in the process.

By Tuesday morning, I was getting cabin fever. At 8:30 AM, I saw my neighbor using his SUV as a makeshift plow in a vain attempt to clear the street. I went out to help him when his car got stuck and was joined by several neighbors. Even though none of us would have considered clearing the whole street alone, when we were all together, we decided that we just might do it. Everyone joined in and as a team, we cleared the entire street and helped each person get out if his or her driveway. It took us over four hours. It was exhausting and fun. There was a lot of joking about changing our state name from Maryland to Little Minnesota. After it was done, one neighbor volunteered to take her SUV to the store for supplies. Several of us rode with her and were able to stock up in preparation for the next storm (up to 20” predicted) expected that afternoon (where is global warming when you really need it?).

At one point, while we were huffing and puffing and resting on the handles of our shovels, we looked down the street and one of our neighbors had carved this beautiful white tiger out of snow and spray painted stripes on her. We just stared in awe. It was so beautiful (see above).

It was wonderful to engage in work for the common good and not just for our own benefit. Several times it looked as if someone’s car was stuck too deep in the snow to dig out and yet we came up with creative solutions as needed to accomplish our task. Old carpets and pieces of wood were used at one point to get traction while men women and children of all sizes pushed from behind.

I was left with this satisfying sense of accomplishment and connectedness that I hadn’t felt with my neighbors in many years. It was remarkable how much snow we had moved in such a short period of time and how undaunted we were by the task that lay before us. It made me wonder what we as a nation (not just our congress) could accomplish if we took that attitude toward the huge problems we have before us. What if we were more interested in reaching the goals of energy independence, affordable health care, affordable higher education, creating new jobs, repairing our infrastructure, cleaning up our air and water, supporting small businesses, etc. than we were in scoring points, looking out for our own special interests and defeating someone else’s efforts?

Sometimes it takes a task larger than our individual efforts to bring us around to working as a team for the highest good of all. In addition to the satisfaction borne of success, it also offers an access to creativity and innovation and a way to experience the best sense of community — a way to see ourselves as an integral part of the big picture.

I also see that a little communal effort goes a long way. A neighbor across the street with whom I have only had a superficial relationship for 20 years, asked me the day after the “big dig” when I was going to try to get my car out onto the road. I said I was going to venture out in about an hour or so. Why was he asking? He offered to come behind me with his SUV and shovel me out if I got stuck. Amazing. I’m seeing him in a whole new light.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about any of the above ideas. I look forward to your comments.


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