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Record Snow, Good Neighbors, & Lessons

By Kermit Hovey

Saturday, March 25, brought crazy winter weather to Middleton. I went to bed the night before, reassured by forecasts of a modest 2.5-inch snowfall. Unfortunately, that morning somebody stomped slushily into the house. Barely awake as I relieved myself in the bathroom, I groggily wondered why I could hear somebody in the house when my wife Diana should have been miles away driving to work. A familiar voice called out and roused me to full consciousness with bad news. The car had started skidding sideways in the driveway and gotten stuck. She explained that we needed to get the drive cleared enough so she could get to work, then called her St. Mary’s Hospital nursing supervisor to explain she would arrive late.

I threw on my coat and boots. Through the door, I stepped into a winter wonderland. More precisely, a land where I wondered, “Two and a half inches, this looks like more than a foot!” The still-falling wet frosty mess covered our driveway too deep to pass. Her attempt to back out of the driveway had left our white Chevy Volt floating on a comfy-looking but impassable frozen white waterbed.

A half-hour of combined vigorous digging, lifting, and hurling got the dozens of feet of white smothered driveway close enough to pavement for Diana to make her departure.

She cautiously slopped her way down the street while I patted myself on the back for a job well done, helping the woman I live with, know, and love. I plotted strategy — shovel more now, even though snow was still falling, or wait until after the storm passed completely? Deciding, I picked up the shovels and started to walk them back to the garage.

Just then, I looked up the street from my driveway. A car turning slowly from Park Street onto Hubbard Avenue glacially slowed and halted. Its wheels spun, noisy and ineffectual. I paused, hoping that good luck would let the tires catch traction. The driver stopped and got out of the car. The woman was not my wife, relative, friend, or acquaintance, but I continued carrying my shovels, only now down the street to help a stranger in need.

This story of wintry weather challenges and cooperation has additional parts and participants. Suffice it to say, other friends and neighbors helped, and the woman and her borrowed Ford rolled on to a date at Hubbard Avenue Diner.

Words of wisdom unconsciously supported my decisions to help. They apply whether in regard to the person I have spent more time with and loved more than anybody else in the world — my wife — or to somebody I’ve never met before and will likely never meet again — the woman stuck at the corner. With knowledge comes responsibility — I knew somebody had a problem, they needed help, and I had resources to help. With humanity comes empathy — I could imagine how frustrating, discouraging, and maybe even frightening being stuck in the snow, exposed on a snow-packed road, might be. With identity comes clarity — I am a good neighbor resident of the good neighbor city and good neighbors work to take care of their neighbors — literally and metaphorically, locally and globally..

As I walked home through a reportedly record snow, I couldn’t help but think about the larger implications of my morning of inconvenience and service — in particular, how and why we should act now in the face of the climate crisis, the spring elections, and our world. We need to be good neighbors in our immediate community and beyond in the world at large.

We are facing a global challenge in the form of the climate crisis. It is up to each and every one of us to take personal, political, and collective action to address it. As with Saturday’s record snowstorm, there’s a need, and we must all do our part to deal with it locally, nationally, and globally.

This means reducing our carbon footprint, advocating for sustainable policies and practices, and electing officials who prioritize climate justice and sustainability. It means continually reminding and encouraging those officials to recall and follow through on those policies and practices. It means recognizing that our actions have a ripple effect that extends beyond our own borders and affects the entire planet. By doing so, we can together create policies and regulations that will help combat climate change and protect our planet for generations to come.

In particular, in early voting continuing through March 31 and on election day April 4, we have the opportunity to elect a state Supreme Court justice and municipal officials who support climate justice and sustainability.

With the state Supreme Court candidates, it is most clear from the company they keep that Judge Janet Protasiewicz will be more likely than the other candidate to make decisions that help protect the environment and climate.

Just like being a good neighbor locally means looking out for those around us, being a good neighbor globally means looking out for the well-being of our planet and all the living beings that call it home. Let’s take action now to address the climate crisis and ensure a sustainable future for all.

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