On January 22nd the snow hit us in Virginia. It wasn’t unexpected; it just all came down in a rush around 1:30 PM in the afternoon, after a morning that was blue and chill. John Adams, Nancy, and I were at the grocery store when it started, looking out the big bay windows in awe at the volume of snow that was suddenly being dumped on the world. We bought our few remaining supplies and headed home, wondering how much, how long, and how bad? We all had a pleasant enough afternoon watching the skies blanket the otherwise overly hot South. We watched 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (poor James Mason), I made a roast chicken and finished reading A Christmas Carol left over from the holidays, we caught up on a back log of television viewing; and by nightfall we were snowed in.
By the next morning the snow had for the most part stopped its dump on us, but we were looking at close to 18 inches of snow on a 150 foot driveway down to the roadside. Both our cars had to be dug out, and we were hoping that some kids, as had happened in the past, would industriously amble by with shovels or a blower, and open us up for a fee. We have one snow shovel, no blower, a two-year old, and neither Nancy nor I are in the world’s greatest physical shape. Surely, someone will want the money to dig us out. Surely. So we set about cleaning the kitchen, and Nancy made cocoa, and peanut soup, and it was all quite pleasant…and nobody came.
By midday we decided we better get out there and start doing it ourselves; hopefully today someone will see us struggling to bail 150 feet of snow and offer to clear it for a fee. We got about 50 feet cleared over the course of the day, amid lots of breaks, cocoa sips, snowman building operations, and curses aimed at the heavens, but no one came. By nightfall, we weren’t even halfway, but we were tired and still trapped. Ah, well, tomorrow is another day.
The next day we were more diligent about digging ourselves out, but we were still hopeful that someone would come and open us up with ease with the right equipment. We took turns using the snow shovel and a garden shovel, and managed to get about halfway to the roadside by 3:30 PM, but again we were cold, tired, trying to manage a toddler, and more than a little annoyed that the universe hadn’t sent us any strong backs to offset our academic physiques. And then, just as we were despairing and getting ready to call it a day it happened…a red pickup truck pulled up along the road, a short-haired woman in jeans got out, grabbed her shovel from the bay of her truck and just started shoveling. We were astonished.
Truth be told, we were astonished and a little miffed. We were ready to call it quits, and now one woman just randomly starts shoveling our drive! We were beat, but now we can’t just leave her out here by herself. But one extra back will still keep us out here for hours. Is this the best you can do God? She started to approach us. If she wants too much money, I’ll just send her away and we can go rest inside for the night, closed driveway or not. Her name was, well, we’ll call her Angel, she was from nearby, driving her way to Virginia Beach to see relation of hers and watch a football game, because in her words, “She had nothing better to do.” She saw us struggling and decided to turn her car around and help us. Well, okay, that’s nice. But how much do you want to help? “Oh, honey, I wasn’t raised like that!” And she smiled and walked back down over the snow and resumed her shoveling. What the hell?! She was just being kind. Who does that anymore? We were stunned.
In the course of the next 90 minutes we learned that Angel had two kids, both living with her ex-husband out of state, that she had just arrived home from Afghanistan on December 30, that she was ex-military, now a government contractor and well-off, and that her wife of some years had just left her. She was trying to raise her kids to do for people in the most altruistic and charitable ways, and by stopping to help us she was living the principles she wanted to instill in her children. She was a beautiful, balanced, tattooed, somewhat foul-mouthed spirit who had made peace with herself and the way our country treats gays and lesbians, and she just wanted to live her life as a useful accepted person. In the course of the conversation she pointed out that her truck had no LGBTQ rainbows or anything defining her by her orientation on it. “I just want people to see me for me and what I can contribute,” she said, “Not as part of any other community. I’m your good neighbor, not your good gay neighbor” What we saw was an awesome human being, trying to live a decent life by positive core principles, who was saving our ass. She was awesome and she was a godsend.
After about 90 minutes it was obvious that Angel was wrapping up to get on her way to Virginia Beach…and then the second Samaritan showed up! Without asking or introduction another man, driving an industrial plow pulled up behind her truck and started opening our driveway. It became quickly obvious that he had seen her down by the roadside and decided to open our entire driveway up. We chased Angel down with cookies and water and many “thank yous” and she uttered something along the lines of, “See? One Samaritan makes another Samaritan. You’re gonna have an open driveway now. Pass it on and thanks for the cookies,” and she drove off. The man waved off my advance of money, didn’t even give his name; just opened up the remaining 50 feet and then pushed the whole driveway open, waved again and smiled and drove off. The whole experience was nothing short of miraculous.
When John Adams is older I’m sure we’ll show him this essay, and recount for him the Tale of the Two Samaritans that opened up our driveway one day for free. We’ll try to tell him that sometimes when you’re weak and ready to quit, that that’s when the universe sends you the assistance you need, if not exactly the assistance that you want or were expecting, and you may still have to work for it and meet it halfway in order to achieve your goal, but the help is there and it’s real, so never stop looking and hoping. We’ll try to tell him to see people as people, not part of a separated community. We’ll try to instill in him a sense of service to one’s fellow man just because it’s the right thing to do. We’ll try to teach him to be kind to people in need, to be himself, and to be grateful for blessings, and to have faith in humanity.
Better still, perhaps we should just live those lessons by example, and let him learn it all for himself. Thanks, Angel. Thanks, Unnamed Plow Guy. Thanks for being exactly who you are.