Seattle, Washington, experienced an unusual snowstorm earlier this month. My brother Bruce Herbert, Founder and Chief Executive of Newground Social Investment, wrote from his Seattle home that while the snow accumulation was only a few inches, the freezing and thawing on Seattle’s steep hills made for hazardous driving conditions. The way Bruce and his wife Nancy spent their day was a wonderful testimony to the power of connection and the enormous satisfaction of extending small gestures of thoughtfulness to others. They managed to connect with both people and nature in such a sweet way. He has given me permission to share his email. The subheadings are mine:
Connecting with others
Yesterday, we had about 3″ at the house, but the storm was remarkably spotty, with other areas getting more than a foot. It did not snow last night but is snowing again now, so we’ll see what the day brings. I spent the day yesterday focused on community (both human and animal). Starting in late morning I began sweeping and shoveling snow for neighbors — two elderly neighbors, one with a newborn child, and a fourth who wheels our recycling/yard waste bins in for us each week because we usually work late. Then I did ours — so five in total. Then, because the night before I’d put chains on the car to be ready, I phoned about a dozen elderly friends in our congregation to check in that they were A-okay and to see if they were in need of anything (groceries, a pharmacy run, etc.). I found all but two at home, and it was lovely feeling their sense of appreciation being looked in on, and a deepening of connection that bucks the tide of isolation stemming from America’s current fascination with the myth of “independence.”
Connecting with nature
Meanwhile, Nancy was feeding seed and suet to the birds and other critters that enjoy our back yard. We noticed where I’d swept snow near the house the birds were pressing their heads against the concrete patio to sip from a film of snow-melt — seemingly desperate for water. So she took a pan of water out, and within a minute, a small flock of 30 robins was there, drinking away. We’ve never seen so many robins in one spot — it was as if, in the harshness of the weather, the normal rules of competition were set aside and any robin finding sustenance sent out the word for others to also come. It was certainly fun to watch — the brilliant red so strikingly set against white snow — and a joy to reflect upon the meaning of what we were observing.
Sometimes circumstances such as unusual weather can nudge us out of our routines enough to experience unexpected connections and pleasure. Be open to it!
Photo credits: “Birdbath in Winter” by Madeleine Openshaw and “Cute Robin in Winter” by Eric Gevaert, both via BigStockPhoto