Thursday, February 6, 2014

Life Lesson #2: What to do when it is not your turn

Last Halloween I was handed Life Lesson #1. With yesterday's ice storm I had a revelation that I decided to turn into this blog.

What to do when it is not your turn

We are taught to take turns early in life. When on the playground we have to let our friends go down the slide, too. Kids who don't learn how to take turns we quickly learn are no fun to play with, so we move onto playing with kids who do take turns.

In this case, though, I'm talking about those not-so-fun times in life. The times when you are the one who is facing something bad, be it a car accident, an illness, the death of someone close, or, in yesterday's case, storm damage.

Fortunately it is not always the same person's turn to suffer. Sometimes it might feel that way, but it is not. I promise you. When it is not your turn, you have a few options. You can sit back in your cozy warm house while others are without power, you can read a book and tune out the rest of the world, or you can help those whose turn it is.

After spending a couple of hours snuggled under my blanket next to a roaring fire (so glad the gas fireplace worked when we lost power!) reading a fun book, I decided to toss on a sweatshirt and take a walk to survey the storm damage. (Amazing how my definition of sweatshirt weather has changed -- in this case it was above freezing and not windy.)

The people in the Woodlane section (homes build about 10 years before ours) got their power back at 10 AM. By 3 PM we were still without power and would be for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, they had a lot more storm damage than we did. I helped a woman take branches off of her sidewalk so people (like me!) could walk on it.

I kept on walking.

I popped on over to another section of the neighborhood. These homes were built 10 years after ours. They, too, had power (so not fair!). A husband and wife in their sixties were trying to yank a half of an elm tree off of a cedar tree they wanted to save. I could tell from a distance they were getting nowhere! I helped them tug and saw and within a few minutes the trees were once again apart. I accepted their offer of warm water to wash the dirt off of my hands.

I kept on walking.

Then I stumbled upon Tony and Carol, neighbors I have never before met trying to cut a tree so that it was no longer in the middle of the street. I went home. Grabbed my clippers and joined them. Together the three of us attacked that tree and a project Tony thought would take him years, took about an hour to get into shape. When Tony brought out a saw, I went across the street and trimmed the branches of another neighbor's tree so that they were no longer sticking in the middle of his driveway. They have been here less than 2 years and have already lost 2 1/3 trees.

While helping Tony and Carol we cheered when we saw the power return! It was about 5 PM and still light out. A part of me wanted to go home and check emails and Facebook, but I stayed until the branches were too big for me to cut with my pruner.

It felt good to help someone when it wasn't my turn to have storm damage. It was a lesson I learned after Superstorm Sandy when Jim (a neighbor I did not know before then) came over with his chainsaw and saved us from having to hire a tree company to take down our willow tree.

This winter we have had 9 storms, with a 10th in the forecast for the weekend. I've tried to clear the ramp and driveway for our next door neighbors, sometimes before I have finished our driveway. 

You do what you can when it is not your turn. Even though my arms are sore, it still feels good. After living in the neighborhood for 14 years, I'm finally feeling like I'm getting to know my neighbors. Rather than focusing on what took me so long, I'm trying to focus on how else can I help my neighbors.

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