There is much about Culpeper that has changed in the past 25 years.
We often bemoan the loss of innocence, the loss of neighborhood, the loss of community when we look back at the changes in the small rural backwater that Culpeper was and, for that measure, still is.
But sometimes I am convinced we are changing for the better.
Monday night the snow fell and immediately piled up on the already frigid ground. By Tuesday morning there was a considerable blanket of white covering all. That included the sidewalks on S. East Street.
The sidewalks in town are the responsibility of each homeowner to keep cleared of the stuff. That is made doubly hard by the snow plows that plow the streets and push the snow off to the side — where it piles up higher and higher on those very same passageways.
I sometimes give up on it all and tell myself Iâ??ll let the sun do the work. That decision is usually made after I see how high the snow is piled. I shouldnâ??t be like that, but there you have it. I had not even gotten to that decision point, be lazy or be industrious, when I had to leave home for an hour.
When I came back I found my front sidewalk cleared, and not only my sidewalk, but also that of my neighbors.
I suspect I know who the culprit is because he has done this before. But I donâ??t know and for this essay perhaps that is better. Better that the kindness is anonymous and therefore can speak for the character of a community and not just of an individual.
Now, there was a time when such things did not happen on my street. Not out of meanness or neighborliness — but because it wasnâ??t thought about. Just wasnâ??t. Then as neighbors got to know one another we began to look out for each other. I will never forget the time I was away from home for several days and during that time Pranas Rimeikis and Rich Kaiser helped my wife with our frozen pipes. There was another time when, after a summer windstorm, neighbors came out and cleared away limbs and debris from the street before the town crews could even get here.
Obviously the cleared sidewalk was part of the same process, unremarkable in its anonymity and frequency.
Sadly, it is easy to see times and places where some will inflict indignity on others. Especially, so it would seem, in the political world. It just seems to be part and parcel of this broken world. But, for me, as I contemplated that small act of kindness in the snow, it was heartening to think that sometimes the small things, the things that make life a little easier, are considered and acted upon by others without expectation of recognition or thanks.
I suspect in the grander scheme of things, it is the cleared sidewalk, the stooping to pick up trash in someone elseâ??s yard, a card in the mail, or an unexpected compliment to cheer the day that makes far more difference in the fabric of our community than many of the other public and seemingly more important events we see bandied about in the newspaper or on television.
I donâ??t take away from those larger and grander gestures of generosity. We need them. But somehow, for me, it is the small courtesies that define a community. I seem to see more of them now — and for that I am glad.
So, thank you for clearing my sidewalk. You made my day.
Gary Close is a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org