Helping Neighbors

This is a post I found on Twitter this morning, and I know nothing about the motorist’s circumstances.

There’s no excuse for anyone driving a car in this condition.  It’s an example of why we should be helpful with each other, though.

If you have a neighbor who can’t deal with the aftermath of snowfall, you might be able to help.  Many people can’t shovel snow or remove it from a car, and not everyone can afford to pay a professional.

It’s up to you to determine your own limits on assisting others.  Whether you allow someone to park in the extra space in your garage depends on how well you know and trust that person (Is there any chance the car is stolen or used to store something illegal?  If so, don’t offer).  Whether you should declare yourself available to do hands on work depends on whether you have time and believe you’re strong enough.

There are plenty of judgment calls involved here, but if possible please consider offering help — and don’t volunteer others without asking them first.

The Twitter post by @DorsetTraffic got my attention because of something that happened to a distant relative I barely knew.  I heard about the tragedy secondhand.

A relative in Missouri (U.S.A.) who was approximately eighty years old was fiercely independent.  He probably wouldn’t have accepted help if it had been offered, so I won’t suggest this could have been prevented:

“Uncle Irv” was shoveling snow in front of his house.  He’d suffered a heart attack ten years earlier, but refused to change his routine.

He collapsed in his driveway and was unresponsive when he was found.  He didn’t survive.

You may have acquaintances who are vulnerable that way, but not all are as stubborn as Uncle Irv.  If you’re not ready to shovel snow, maybe you can help someone prepare ahead of time — even if you don’t have an extra space in your garage.  A neighbor who ordinarily uses public transit might appreciate a drive to the grocery/hardware store to buy items that can’t be carried on a bus.

I live in San Francisco, where people are encouraged to have landline telephone contacts outside the state whose numbers are shared with others.  After a big earthquake, we can call the out-of-state person and confirm we’re alright.  Then, anyone who is worried about us can call that same person.  Having one out-of-state contact is a more efficient way to communicate than if we clog the system with dozens of hysterical calls to local people (Note: in the U.S., making a landline out-of-state call from a disaster zone is much easier than making local calls or calling into the disaster zone from any location).

There are a lot of different scenarios we can think of, but it’s best not to try to second guess anyone’s needs.  If you’re ready to help, sometimes the best thing you can do is ask the general question, “Is there anything I can do?”

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