In the early morning hours between sleep and consciousness, I heard a loud and constant “Scrape, scrape, scrape! Thud, thud, thud.” Too tired to care what it might be, I went back to sleep. The sound then made an appearance in a shallow dream I had, where my dog was digging a hole in the ground. I woke again, and still made no attempt to figure out where the noise was coming from, it was somewhere outside my window and that’s all that bothered to register.
I took my dog out for her morning walk, still sleepy eyed and in auto-mode, to find the noise was a young man scraping the inch and a half layer of ice off the stairs and sidewalks of our apartment building. He was using a metal garden hoe, that was the only thing strong enough to break through the solid sheet. It was then that I realized, he had been at this for hours! I also noticed a man, who I was fairly certain was a neighbor from another building, finishing up a conversation with the ice scraping boy. I wondered, could he be complaining about the noise? I walked by the ice scraper and muttered a soft, “Thank you for doing that.” What a job that must be.
We finished our walk and I headed back to my front door. That’s when I again saw the possible, familiar neighbor walking back towards the ice scraper. This time, he had Dunkin Doughnuts coffee with him, which he handed to the young man and demanded, “Take a rest my friend.” He then made his way back across the street. As he passed me, he gave me a sincere smile and said, “Good morning. Bet they don’t have weather like this in Texas.”
I smiled, taken back by the warmness in his demeanor. That’s when I realized in my daze, he was referring to our Texas license plates that we still have not switched to New Jersey (military exception). I started to understand, like I was slowly waking from a dream. And then I felt ashamed of myself. Ashamed that I hadn’t looked outside my window hours ago to see that a stranger was breaking his back to keep my neighbors and I from breaking our necks. Ashamed I didn’t think of offering him coffee. Ashamed that I didn’t know my own neighbor, and he knew me and where I was from! I was stunned to realize how much in my daily life that I see, but don’t take in.
I guess the old expression “stop and smell the roses,” means more than simply taking time for myself to relax. It’s not really about me at all. It’s taking a moment to observe, absorb, just plain notice the roses.