February 23, 2011



It was a dark and stormy night.

No, really – it was. Dark and cold, with a mid-winter snow storm swirling about, blanketing the world with its oppressively heavy wetness.

And not just outside. Inside my soul it was dark and stormy, too. It had been one of those days – you know what I mean? Nothing terribly tragic, just lots of hassle and frustration. Long, boring, unproductive meetings at work. Starter problems with the car. Bills. Children of various ages, with various problems and struggles. A nagging cold.

You know – dark stuff. Stormy stuff. Inside, and out.

As tough as the day had been for the inner me, it was the “out” part that was really bugging me as I made my way down the snow-covered street to the church, where I had a meeting. I’ve lived in snow country most of my life, but I’ve never developed much affection for what I consider to be a white, fluffy annoyance. Maybe it’s because I don’t ski; I could never understand why anyone would want to go out and intentionally get cold and wet. I think I inherited this attitude from my Mom, who used to say that the best place to be during a Rocky Mountain snowstorm is indoors.

In San Diego.

My meeting at the church went reasonably well. I almost forgot about the slush that was running down my leg and into my sock as a result of the spill I took on the un-shoveled sidewalk that led from the parking lot into the church. I was getting ready to go home when I heard the unmistakable sound of spirited teenage boys coming into the building.

“Hey, guys – what’s going on?”

They weren’t expecting to see me, and they were trying to hide something behind them. “Uh . . . nothin’,” the smallest of the four teenagers said. “We’re just . . . uh . . . coming in to . . . uh . . . get a drink of water.”

“Yeah,” another boy said. “We need some water.”

“We’re thirsty,” added a third.

“Uh-huh,” I said. “I can see where you’d get thirsty out there in that hot, dry weather.”

The boys laughed nervously. I would have laughed, too, but I wasn’t really in a laughing mood. “Come on in and get a drink,” I said. “I’m locking up, and I need to get going.”

“Well, we need to go, too,” said the shortest boy. “We can get water at my house.”

“Yeah,” said one of the other boys. “You’ve got really good water.”

The boys all turned and ran toward the street as fast the ice, snow and the snow shovels (snow shovels?) they were carrying would allow. I could hear them laughing and speaking loudly to each other as I clicked off the lights in the church and pulled the locked door shut behind me.

As I walked out to my car I noticed that something was different in the parking lot. The sidewalk had been scraped clean of snow and ice, and a thin layer of rock salt had been spread across the cement. I smiled as a mathematical equation formed in my non-mathematical mind: boys plus shovels plus clean walks equals a mid-winter service project.

No wonder they were thirsty, I thought as I smiled a refreshing, heart-felt smile.

When I got to where my car was parked I had to stop and laugh out loud. One of the boys had shoveled a path all the way from the sidewalk to the door of my car. He had even cleared away a little spot for me to stand while I unlocked my car and climbed in. Suddenly, my day didn’t seem nearly so dreary, and the night didn’t seem nearly so cold.

It was just a little act of kindness, requiring no more than a few minutes worth of shoveling. But somehow it was enough to make a difference for me.

Even on a dark and stormy night.

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