Sidewalk advocate says don’t be shy about shoveling

In this video by St. Paul Smart Trips, sidewalk access advocate Linda Mainquist says, “A lot of people are too shy to talk to their neighbors about shoveling their sidewalks. Anyone from Minnesota understands this phenomenon.”

Yes indeed.

The City of St. Paul and Smart Trips have made door hangers reminding residents they have 24 hours to clear their walks.

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(Based on a photo by Sharyn Morrow, courtesy of St. Paul Smart Trips)

A lot of us might want to bury our heads in the snow on this one. Let’s face it, with a snow dump like we just had, it’s tough to keep our sidewalks properly cleared.

I’ll admit that every time I’m tempted to shovel a skinny path on my corner lot, I think of this commentary. I’d rather die of shame than watch someone struggle with my curb-cuts so I keep digging.

I recently read Michelle Norris’ book The Grace of Silence. Norris, who hosts NPR’s All Things Considered, grew up in Minneapolis. She describes how her parents integrated their block in South Minneapolis. This detail about snow, recounted here on the NPR web site, rang so true:

“Belvin Norris, an African-American from the South, moved to Minnesota and bought a house in an all-white neighborhood. On snowy mornings, he’d shovel the sidewalks before anybody else woke up, Norris says, as if to announce that the black family on the block had their house in order.”

A house in order. How true. We do judge each other by our snow shoveling. A clean walk means you’ve got your act together. Letting your neighbors tromp through knee-deep snow means you are inconsiderate and slovenly. It’s too early to hope for the easy assist of spring melt-off.

If you can’t do the shoveling, pay some kid with a strong back. Or maybe you’ll be lucky and the neighbor with the new snow blower will do the whole block.

It’s early enough in the season that it’s still fun, right? Enjoy the camaraderie of neighbors, or the quiet moments of being outside in winter.

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