While there’s not much one can do to prevent a snowstorm from blanketing your city, town or neighborhood, there is something one can do to prevent uncomfortable or hard feelings toward neighbors who won’t shovel snow on their sidewalk: Extend human kindness and connection.
Many people have been isolated this past year due to the pandemic. Reach out and extend an introduction if you haven’t yet. Are they elderly, a single parent, disabled or a caregiver for multiple generations? Might they have an erratic work schedule, or work several jobs or shifts? Ask if they need a helping hand, and let them know that you’re concerned about their safety as well as the safety of their visitors and delivery services.
If they mention they’ve been meaning to do the job, offer to help start the process. If you get the impression they’ll need assistance on a regular basis, offer to help with service ideas or make a game plan. Suggest you’d be happy to forward contact information of a reputable snow removal service, or neighborhood teens who offer these services. If finances seem to be of concern, perhaps rally other neighbors to take turns helping out on a rotating basis.
In addition, many cities and towns have local snow removal volunteer groups or neighborhood committees that are formed just for this purpose; these may be viable options for your neighbor or others in your neighborhood, especially if aid will be needed routinely or if they don’t shovel at all. Lean in to kindness and community; they’re keys to serving and connecting you and your neighbors well.
*In case you missed it, this post was published in The Chicago Tribune on 1.6.21 as part of an etiquette series in which I contributed.