Neighbors helping neighbors: A beautiful thing

Meet my neighbor, Merilyn. Merilyn is one of my heroes because she is a sidewalk-shoveling rock star. During the winter, she can regularly be seen clearing her stretch of walk. And when I say regularly, I mean all the time.

Whenever there’s an inch or two of snow on the ground, you can find Merilyn outside being awesome. Not only is her sidewalk clear, but she also goes the extra step of shoveling a fire hydrant in front of her house and the curb cuts of the intersection. Merilyn rocks.

Turns out, though, that Merilyn isn’t alone. There are others like her here in this fantastic place we call home. Lots more, actually.

With a little investigating, I heard about Andy Olds and Doug Peterson on Ninth Street, Bob Otwell and Gina Erb on Washington Street, Kevin Paveglio, Ben Miller on Lincoln Street, and Bethany Renfer and Tim Werner on Seventh Street.

And I heard about Keelan McNulty on State Street, Allison Cavanaugh and Mike Jackson on Sixth Street, Ed Parker on Sixteenth Street, David Rosier, Rachel Sang, Karlyn Haas and Ashleigh Ackerman on Tenth Street and Bill Palladino, who helps with the Cass Street pedestrian bridge.

Friends also told me about Joel and Gretchen Evenhouse and Brandon Theophilus on Webster Street, Eileen Purkis on Carver Street, Chris Loud on Madison Street, and Craig and Kathi Mulder on Eleventh Street.
And, of course, there are the fine men and women of The City of Traverse City’s Street Department. They do an incredible job of clearing miles and miles of neighborhood sidewalk.

I’m sure there are many more, but you get the idea: this town is full of awesome people.

These people inspire me to do good. Sure, you get to benefit from a clear path in front of your home. Still, sidewalk shoveling is mostly a selfless act because it’s others, your neighbors, who help the most. It’s a small act that requires some work and time, but it’s also a small act that provides a significant social return.

Clearing your walk allows your neighbors, especially our very young, very old, and those with disabilities, to safely get outside during the winter and walk. Walks benefit their physical health and social and emotional well-being because they often lead to social interactions. Interactions such as a smile or a “good morning.” A wave to your neighbor who’s out walking her dog or a quick catch-up with a friend.

These positive neighborhood interactions lead to a stronger sense of neighborhood connection. And with increased neighborhood connection comes a feeling of neighborhood belonging. And when we belong to a neighborhood, we’re more likely to act on behalf of the neighborhood. And with more people acting on behalf of their neighborhood, we can do great things together.

Sidewalk shoveling is about neighbors helping neighbors and that’s a beautiful thing.

Who’s your neighborhood hero? Tell me at ty@goodworkslab.org.

This story originally appeared in the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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Manitoba made now proud Michigander living in Traverse City. Dad, husband, community organizer and founder of Carter's Compost, Norte, and Good Works Lab.

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Ty Schmidt

Ty Schmidt

Manitoba made now proud Michigander living in Traverse City. Dad, husband, community organizer and founder of Carter's Compost, Norte, and Good Works Lab.

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