Many Hands

As you may know, St. Louis was hit with a doozie of a snowstorm this weekend.  We had sleet and a little freezing rain, followed by about a foot of snow, topped off with more sleet and freezing drizzle.  The result was super-slippery roads, resulting in many accidents, highway and street closures, and general misery for all those who were simply trying to get home at the end of a long week.

img_4454On Saturday morning, we awakened to what looked like a winter wonderland.  Snow was everywhere, at least a foot deep.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t the dry, powdery snow that skiers love.  It was the heavy, soggy snow that can damage roofs and bushes, and even cause trees to drop branches on power lines.  When we saw that the tall bushes that line our property were bowing low under the weight of the snow, we quickly bundled up and headed outside to do some heavy-duty snow removal.

If you ever want proof that you aren’t young anymore, I can recommend trying to shovel two porches, two sidewalks and a driveway that holds seven cars….after you’ve already spent twenty minutes knocking snow off a few dozen bushes.  I started at the end of the driveway, where the snowplow had helpfully piled up the huge mountain of snow it had removed from the street.  My husband and I worked hard, but we both needed a break before we had shoveled even a fourth of the driveway.  I cooked breakfast, and while I was cleaning up, my husband headed back outside to tackle the driveway again.

I’ll go ahead and admit that I didn’t exactly hurry my way through the breakfast dishes.  I was still tired and sore (that snow pile at the end of the driveway was partially ice, and that stuff was heavy) and I figured it didn’t hurt to take a little longer break before I went back out.  I knew it was going to take hours to get everything shoveled, so there was no reason to hurry.

So you can imagine my surprise when I finally finished the dishes and looked outside to see that our driveway was almost completely cleared.  Especially since the man I saw shoveling the last bit of snow was not my husband.  In fact, there were actually three people out there helping my husband finish the driveway and I didn’t know recognize any of them.  I wondered, briefly, if they were some sort of service group who were out shoveling for the elderly.  But surely we’re not that old….

Turns out, they were neighbors who lived down the block and they told my husband that they had come to help simply because we had “the longest driveway in the neighborhood.” My husband thanked them profusely, but even so, I doubt they had any idea how much we appreciated their help.  It would have taken us hours to get everything shoveled and we would have been sore for days afterwards.

Lots of people are willing to help others as long as they are noticed and admired for their good work.  But far fewer people are willing to pitch in and help with no expectation of recognition or thanks, especially when the work required is truly hard.  Yet those people are a gift and a reminder to the rest of us that, wherever and whenever possible, we need to step forward and lend a helping hand.

One of my mother-in-law’s favorite sayings was, “Many hands make light work.”  And she was absolutely right.  Because when we work together, it’s amazing what can be accomplished.

A New One Just Begun

img_2834Taking down the decorations is my least favorite part of Christmas.  When I was a child, we always took down our tree on New Year’s Day mostly because it was always a real tree and beginning to dry out by then.  When I grew up and began decorating my own Christmas trees, I left them up a little bit longer, especially once we made the shift to putting an artificial Christmas tree in our living room.  These days I don’t take my decorations down until after Epiphany (January 6), and sometimes not even then.  The truth is, I’m never really ready to “undecorate” the house.

But eventually even I have to admit that it’s time to take everything down, and so I drag my boxes and cartons out of the basement and begin the long and tedious process of packing all my ornaments and decorations away for another year.  Somewhere along the line, I quit feeling sorry for myself and focus much more on making sure everything is properly wrapped, in the correct box, and clearly labeled.  (My obsessive need for neatness comes in handy sometimes.)

Even though our house always looks just a little bit naked those first few days without holiday decorations scattered so liberally about, there is always a part of me that likes what I see.  The undecorated house reminds me of a blank canvas, and I start to think about different colored throw pillows, or perhaps a new set of shelves to store my ever-growing collection of photo albums.  New things seem possible now that the clutter of Christmas has been cleared away, and I find it much easier to envision some positive changes for my home.

And once my Christmas decorations are put away, I know that the holiday season is officially over and that it is time to look forward into the new year.  I’m not a person who easily embraces change, but I never want to be a person who fears it.  The new year helps remind me that sometimes change is both necessary and good.  The new year can be a symbol of a “clean slate” that allows me to leave behind the clutter in my life that isn’t doing me or anyone else any good, and gives me a chance to make some of the changes that will move me toward a life that is happier and more full of purpose.

And of course, it helps to remember that in only eleven short months I’ll be able to decorate my house for Christmas all over again….