Blizzard of Cause: building winter-weather community

Harsh winter conditions are an opportunity to participate in the give-and-take of being a good neighbor – and to strengthen the common good.


There’s nothing like a major winter weather system to remind everyone we are all in this together. Snow, ice, frigid temperatures, and howling winds might create any number of concerns, but harsh winter conditions also provide a perfect backdrop to participate in the give-and-take of being a good neighbor – and in strengthening the common good.

See if you recognize yourself, your neighbors, or your community in the following acts.

Clear the way.

If you are capable, help shovel snow from your neighbors’ driveways and sidewalks. This obviously makes the neighborhood safer, but is also an act of kindness that can be paid forward. Sharing snow-removal equipment – shovels, salt, even a snowblower – is another way to build lasting trust.

Give extra help if needed.

Blizzards can be challenging for our senior neighbors or for those with special needs. Check on neighbors regularly to ensure they are safe and comfortable, and that they also have the provisions they need to ride out the weather. If necessary, pick up extra groceries or pitch in with any urgent tasks with which they may need extra help.

Stay connected.

Communicate with members of your community so you can easily spread information about forecasts, road conditions, or any urgent needs. This is where our 21st-century communications technology comes in handy: Use group chats, social media platforms, or even the good old telephone to provide rapid updates (and responses, natch).

Be a snow angel.

Do you have a vehicle that is built for tough conditions? If so, and if you judge that driving conditions are safe enough to venture forth, offer to drive others to essential appointments or to run essential errands. Communicate and coordinate with neighbors and other community members to ensure all needs are being met.

Share the warmth.

We mean this both literally and metaphorically. Offer to share spare blankets, winter coats, warm clothes, or other seasonal gear. Or brew some coffee or hot chocolate, make some homemade treats, and share them with neighbors. It’s a token of appreciation and also a tangible reminder that we’re all in it together.

Help with pets.

Assist neighbors in walking their dogs or providing care for their pets during inclement weather. Collaborate with everyone in the neighborhood to ensure all “local” pets are safe and well-cared for.

Join in the cleanup.

This too shall pass. When the weather is safer and warmer, help organize or join in a community clean-up effort to clear common areas like sidewalks, parks, and neighborhood trails, and other public rights-of-way. Treat the aftermath of a winter storm as a way to celebrate community pride and strengthen bonds with neighbors.

Be grateful.

Winter weather – especially sustained systems, one after the next – can be physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. Thank your neighbors and community members who helped you, and stay warm in the knowledge of a neighborhood and community that has one another’s backs.

Outside, online, sharing our resources to tackle the common challenge: That’s community-building in the winter. That’s community-building, period.

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