This morning I was awakened by the text tone on my smartphone. It was my husband, with this message: “How’s the weather? I’m stuck here.” He’s at home, and I’m in Washington, D.C. on tour with the Berea College Country Dancers, a traditional dance group I help lead. We each took pictures of the view we had – mine from a third floor window in a house in Takoma Park, and his from the door to our front porch. Both showed landscapes covered with a white blanket several inches thick, with no roads visible. My photo included a caption: “Stuck.”
Being snowed in often carries a sense of fear and isolation – as well it should, especially if the storm hits when you’re not prepared with enough food or alternative heat sources. But Alfredo’s and my “snowed in” experiences today have been anything but isolated. Alfredo is at home with our daughters and one of our nieces, right next door to Mom and Dad – in a community of six people who love each other and willingly share resources and time. I’m snowed in with a group of 20 college students and their leaders – four other girls in the house I’m sleeping in, plus another 15 or so of our group in other houses on this block. Early this morning we swept the porch and shoveled the walks for the kind lady who is hosting us before walking over the uncleared sidewalks to the home of the couple serving as the local contact for this tour. On our way we passed other households that were just waking up and beginning to sweep and shovel. There was one set of footprints on the sidewalk before we added ours, and we wondered where their owner was going. It was a beautiful walk, and although we were the first to arrive at the central house, others soon followed and were all rewarded with steaming coffee, pancakes, French toast, bagels, cereal and fruit. Conversation was animated and laughter rang throughout the house. Photos from yesterday’s dance performance on the west lawn of the US Capitol got posted on Facebook and passed around via various devices, creating hilarity and craziness in abundance. A 1,000-piece puzzle came out of the box. I finally had to return to the house I’m sleeping in just to find enough peace and “isolation” to write this blog! And, in a few minutes I’ll walk the 2 blocks back there to join in whatever revelry is taking place then – I can’t resist a great social gathering.
Being snowed in today has been an opportunity to build community, in a different and perhaps stronger way than our “plan A” for the group: two performances for students at a school in the area. Due to the snow, we’re not in costume, doing a show that we’ve rehearsed, relating in a professional way to each other and our audience. Instead, we’re jammed together, 20+ people in the living room of a family home, learning each other’s stories. Today I thank God for the isolation of being snowed in, and for the kind people who have opened their homes and created the warmth and comfort for body and soul that has made our isolation such a blessing. I truly believe that one of the most important things we can do on this earth is to create and invest in relationships with each other and our environment. A day like this, which interrupts the “normal,” often inexorable flow of busy activities, is a healthy opportunity to re-prioritize.
I occurs to me that today I’m being given the opportunity to benefit from the kind of hospitality that my family has extended for years – first (and continuing) in our family home, then as a bed & breakfast in Berea, and now as Happiness Hills Retreat Center, and it reminds me how much this kind of hospitality is needed. In a world that constantly pulls us apart from one another, we need places and people who draw us together with warmth, food and comfortable surroundings. And sometimes we need a little “snow” to slow us down and make us take the time to enjoy our community, wherever we find it. I’m finding community at this moment in a friendly neighborhood in Takoma Park, Maryland. I hope someday you’ll find it with our family at Happiness Hills Farm. I hope, most of all, that you will find it somewhere, or better yet, create it yourself – the world needs it!