I believe that snow teaches us something about gratitude.
This is only my second winter living in Chicago. Chicago has seen more snowfall this year than in the preceding 29 years. To help put that in perspective for me, I’m often reminded by my colleagues that I wasn’t even alive the last time they were running out of salt. Almost every morning for the last three months my routine has involved thawing, cleaning, and scraping my car from the previous night’s provisions. Yet I am grateful for what this winter has taught me: that there is always much to be grateful for.
I believe that gratefulness in the midst of changing seasons should be based off more than an awareness that our suffering is only temporary. I believe each season has its own intrinsic value, and that our measuring stick should be taller than the means by which we relate it to a more pleasant climate. Surely it is true that for more temperate weather lovers we count down the days to spring like an inmate, scratching out the passage of time on our cell walls. We tend to compartmentalize our frustrations and believe that it’s acceptable to complain about the weather because it’s clearly out of our control, thus we become victims instead of grateful citizens.
My grandmother once mailed a VHS tape to our house in West Africa where we watched home footage and local weather reports of the crippling blizzard that had struck her Kentucky home. Snow was not a foreign concept to me at the time, however distant it remained from our African climate. I’m sure that I experienced it myself before I left the United States at the age of five – but I couldn’t remember it’s texture, it’s sensation as it melted on my tongue, or it’s sting as it struck me in pellets, thrown from the vengeful hands of my older sister. Yet I could identify the word “snow” with a mental image. Our African friends we shared the tape with could barely comprehend the idea. Their facial expressions and verbal reactions were nameless as they watched with us, barely able to grasp the phenomenon for themselves. I am grateful that I am able even now to recognize snow when it falls, and that I live in a city that doesn’t shut down when elsewhere an inch or two can easily paralyze our southern neighbors. I’m even grateful for the rare but precious “snow day” that graces our school calendar when it is least expected.
I believe that snow teaches us to treat others how we would want to be treated. A few weeks ago I left my apartment complex weight room to see an elderly woman shoveling snow out from behind her car. The snow was wet and heavy, so it gave me the opportunity to offer a simple gesture of help. It gave me the opportunity to befriend a truly kind and beautiful woman that lives right next door to me.
Hardly a morning has passed by when I have not seen commuters stopping to offer other’s assistance with their disabled vehicles. Each afternoon I watch the same teacher dust off his snow covered car in the parking lot, but not before he wipes away the freshly fallen blanket from the vehicles parked on either side of him. I am grateful for the human decency that snow gives us the opportunity to exercise.
Yes, I am even grateful for potholes. Growing up in a third-world country that could corner the market on infrastructure negligence, I am reminded every day that most of the world does not have the luxury or the means of driving themselves to work like I do, even if that road is a little worn.
I believe that life is entirely a response to our present circumstances. How we chose to proceed with what we are given is the only true control we have. I cannot say whether it is better for one to prefer a season over another, but only that this is true for me in my life: That nothing done with good purpose will ever return void, even if that means choosing to be grateful for the flakes that are still falling outside my window.
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