Pay it Forward: Sometimes philanthropy starts with simple assistance

I often prefer to tackle jobs during the winter months. The snow pack can be much easier to travel upon than the veggie covered terrain one encounters during other seasons. Today I made a new friend while on the job.

I drove to the end of the road and found an Alaska State Trooper vehicle parked in the turn around, engine running but no one in sight. I negotiated a tight turn and backed my truck to the snow berm to unload my snow machine. A few minutes later a trooper appeared, post holing up the driveway. It turned out he was coming to the aid of an elderly woman whom he was going to give a lift into town.

Several minutes later she appeared in the distance, ski poles supporting her while she made the long journey up her driveway to the trooper’s car. She was obviously laboring in the deep snow and I hurried to try to make my machine available to assist her. By the time I had it ready she was crawling into the backseat of the trooper’s car and off they went. I figured all was taken care of.

I continued with my business of digging up existing survey monuments and setting new ones. A couple of hours later I looked up and once again, there she was, ski poles in hand, bags draped over her arms, standing where I had last seen her loading into the trooper’s car. She was gazing down her quarter-mile long, snow covered driveway and contemplating the journey. I hollered at her to stay put, that I would come give her a ride home. I quickly kicked off my snow shoes, disconnected my sled full of gear, and fired up my machine. I pulled up next to her as she stood unsteady in the deep snow.

“Can I offer you a ride home?” I asked.

“That would be swell,” she responded.

“Are you familiar with riding on these machines?” I inquired.

“Never been on one in my life,” she answered, “but I’m ready to give it a try.”

With some effort I had her loaded on the machine with a little room left for me to climb on and drive. I gave her a few last-minute instructions and off we went. On the way down the hill to her little cabin we passed her car, stuck in the deep drifts from Saturday’s storm. We unloaded she and her bags at her front door. She thanked me over and over for saving her the walk and for the exhilarating ride. I offered to dig her car out and park it back in front of her cabin. She had done her best with a small snow blower to clear a parking space there. She dug her keys out of her bag and handed them over.

“That would be swell,” she said.

She had buried her old beat up Blazer pretty good, but in 30 minutes I had it dug out and parked in front of her cabin. I gave her my phone number as I handed her the keys.

We finally introduced ourselves as we said our goodbyes. She offered to pay me with a fist full of a five and a few ones. I declined the offer and reminded her to call me the next time she got herself into a pickle. With tears in her eyes she thanked me again.

Before going back to work, I called a friend who has a plow business and told him the story. He said he would be right over. An hour later he pulled in and began the task. A few minutes after his arrival my phone rang. It was my new friend Carmen, “Like the opera.”

“Someone is plowing my driveway!” she exclaimed. “I’m not sure I can afford that.”

“That’s my friend and he was in the neighborhood and there will be no charge for his services,” I replied. “And be sure to call me the next time you find yourself in a pickle.”

Tonight I suspect Carmen is nestled into her little cabin with a fire burning in the stove and counting her blessings. It was a big day for her. I hope she feels she has made a new friend, someone she can call upon in a time of need. She has my number, in her new smart phone (we learned how to add a new number to her contacts), and written on the inside of her door, and again on a piece of plywood on her entry.

And for myself, I feel blessed for the new friend. I suspect I will be seeing more of Carmen.

Billy Day is a life long Alaskan who lives a happy life on Diamond Ridge and prefers to spend his time in the mountains with a pair of boards strapped to his feet.

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