Make a Neighbour Smile in 13 Minutes

13 quick minutes with a snow shovel. That’s all it takes this morning. It’s impossible to write this without bragging, so I’ll just brag. 

On my way out the door this morning I realize that if I don't shovel our walks, my wife will have to do it. My wife who has to care for the kids today. It is PD Day. So I shovel.  

Then, I realize that shoveling this snow, while it is still fresh, is so much easier than I thought. So much faster. The air is so much warmer. And since I am out here already, I might as well shovel further down. The new neighbours. Welcome to the hood. And of course, before I’m done, I’d better shovel the walk of the lovely little old lady who lives next door.

I honestly have a lovely little old lady living next door.

So I shovel all three walks. And it takes about 13 minutes. And I leave before 9 AM on my way to the Bleeding Heart Art Space to write a new #ArtScene13 post for this weekend. Only I don’t write that post. I write this one.

Here’s why I change my mind.

On the drive over, I come up a side street and see two boomers leaning on their shovels. It’s like a Normal Rockwell image, it’s so contrived. These men are actually leaning on shovels and 'shootin’ the breeze'. As far as I can tell the two men are from different racial backgrounds. Different histories. Different cultures. Thrown together next door. This is what a neighbour is.

Neighbours are out here in shared suffering. Out here on a surprise snow day. Shoveling.

And I watch these men build bridges while the radio tells of a Starbucks campaign to engineer better race relations in the USA. The panelists buck at the idea. Reconciliation cannot be forced by the powers that be. Even friendly powers, like Starbucks.  

I watch these men while dust from the Canada Reads book competion still settles across the nation. The winning book is Ru, by Kim Thúy. A story about a Vietnam War refugee making her way in Canada. Helped along by the simple kindness of strangers. Loved by neighbours.

While I haven’t read the book, and truthfully missed most of Canada Reads 2015, this all collides under fresh snow this morning. A revelation.

Every snowflake different. Every snowflake beautiful. All together, a seamless, fresh blanket to hide the muck.

I get to the Bleeding Heart Art Space to do more shoveling and find that by some miracle, most of the work is already complete. By melt or hands of kindness there is precious little snow. So I shovel what is left. In front of our building. In front of the Latin food market next door. In front of the organization dealing with hurting women down the way. Around the corner. Another 13 minutes.

None of this takes long. But it is what I would hope another would do for me.

It’s funny that Jesus told me to love my neighbour as I love myself, and after all this shoveling I the one who likely feels the best. 

Now, you may wonder why this on a blog about art. What does shoveling have to do with the canvas or the microphone?

Love has everything to do with the life of the artist. 

Or it should, as Van Gogh himself famously said,

"I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people."

Vincent Van Gogh

We see the snow and think of work. Of shovels and car windows. Of cold. Or we see the snow and think of play. Of sleds and sculptures and simple joy. Of the chance to serve a neighbour. These are the choice we make, one by one, every day anew.

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