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Stutzman: A little help from the neighbor

January 30, 2012
Mary Beth Stutzman - Inspiring A-Town , The Alpena News

As I write this column, the snow is gently falling. The trees have been transformed into the backdrop of a mystical theater set. The streets are blanketed with soft white powder. Winter is here.

My husband is on his way to the airport, a week in California for work. I just returned from a week in Las Vegas for work. To say our schedules are chaotic is an understatement. With both of us working full time and making time with our daughter a priority, a lot of things just don't get done. We have worked hard to maintain a sanctuary on the inside of our home but more often than not, the outside falls by the wayside.

Last summer I described our house to people as the one with "the worst landscaping on the block." If we had two hours after work to spend with our daughter we chose to spend it at the park instead of mowing the lawn. The previous spring was spent reading her stories and taking her to my parent's farm to see the animals; it wasn't spent pulling weeds in my garden (I use the term "garden" rather loosely). At this point in my life I only have a limited amount of free time and I want that free time to go toward something that will outlive me. I'm rather envious of the beautifully manicured lawns in our neighborhood but at the end of the day, I know my time was spent on my priorities and I'll never regret it.

Enter neighbors. Without the generosity of neighbors our life would be of a lesser quality.

Sometimes we don't even think about the things we're forgetting to do until someone else does it for us. That's the incredible thing about Alpena. It seems like someone is always willing to go out of their way to help out a neighbor. As I sit here at my computer it's about 8 a.m. on a Sunday. Our neighbor's son just zipped up the driveway with his plow to clear a path. We are so grateful because we don't have the extra finances to pay someone to plow every time it snows and if only one of us is home, it's not a good idea to leave a 2 year old in the house alone and go out and shovel the driveway for two hours.

I look to my left and out the front windows I see the neighbor from the other side of us all bundled up, walking behind a snowblower on the sidewalk in front of our house. I'm surprised because I never knew how the sidewalk got cleared. I thought the city did it.

Winter can be a bear in Northeast Michigan. Storms kick up and entire days are spent with plans all in a jumble because of the snow's paralyzing grip. But we're all in it together and maybe that is why some of us are so willing to help others.

For a moment I sit and reflect. I hope I can think of a nice gesture to thank our neighbors for their kindness. It's also a reminder that a time will come when I have the freedom in my schedule to pay it forward. I must not forget to give to others in the community as they have given to me. In the meantime, here is a thank you. A thank you to everyone who has ever helped push a vehicle out of the ditch (my first year of winter driving was not super stellar so I had a number of these incidents). A thank you to all those who help keep the driveways and walkways of Northeast Michigan clear of snow. A thank you to 4-wheel drive vehicle owners who offer to give us nerdy little car owners a lift when the snow is deep. A thank you to everyone who is a part of this unofficial infrastructure that makes our community glow with citizenship and compassion. Your actions are appreciated more than you will ever know.

Mary Beth Stutzman's Inspiring A-Town runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays.



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