Many winters ago, winter snows meant a respite from going to school. Now that I am much older, snow means having to get up early and shovel it. Snow provides no respite from work.
However, I remember one wintry day in my boyhood home of Merchantville, NJ. The snow had just stopped falling around noon on a Saturday late in January. Why it couldn't have waited until Monday to drop those dozen inches of white flakes was beyond me. Nothing was moving in the neighborhood; the snow had come quickly and the snow plows hadn't reached my part of town. A white carpet covered everything-lawns, sidewalks, roofs, and streets. I bolted out of the house like a bull at a bull fight. I was going to besmirch the beauty that nature had created by traipsing all over and leaving my imprint upon the neighborhood. After a few moments of sheer joy and exuberance, I had messed up the once even blanket of beauty.
About the time I was tiring of redesigning the picture postcard appearance of my snow-scape, I noticed that Mr. Lee was beginning to shovel his driveway. My friend beckoned me to come over to see him. I pranced across the street making pronounced steps in the snow. Soon, I was chatting with Mr. Lee who could shovel and talk at the same time. I followed him as he slowly worked his way to the street removing shovels full of snow as he went. Within a half hour, we had reached the sidewalk. By that time, the town's snowplow had reached the corner of Norwood and Harvey Avenues and was about to turn and come past Mr. Lee's house. We stood there in the tree line watching the plow cut a swatch in the snow as it came down the street. Schoosh and rubble went the plow as it curled the snow in a white wave and shoved it to the side of the street. I stood there watching it scoop up my footprints in the snow. I must have looked disappointed at the disappearance of my artwork for Mr. Lee invited me in for cookies and Bosco (a chocolate-like drink of the early fifties). As we munched on cookies and warmed ourselves with the drink, Mr. Lee said, "Your tracks in the snow disappeared quickly when the plow finally came, didn't they? Your impact upon the snow of the street didn't last long. What were you thinking as the plow erased your tracks?"
Mr. Lee was always asked philosophical questions. It took me a few seconds to think over his question before answering. Finally, I replied, "My tracks disappeared in a second."
Mr. Lee came back as fast as the plow obliterated my tracks with a question that stunned me, "Do you want your tracks to last longer?" My friend often confused me with his use of the metaphor. This time, my mind raced about trying to figure out how to make my snowy tracks remain. However, it wasn't long before I realized that Mr. Lee was talking about another kind of track that I could leave that was not contingent upon having snow.
Mr. Lee told about an old friend of his back in China. When, Mr. Lee was about my age. His friend had been to him what Mr. Lee was to me. He told of how his friend would teach him about life and how to live it. Whenever someone needed something, he was always there quietly adding his hand in the effort even though he was not at all wealthy.
I asked Mr. Lee whatever happened to his friend? He was quiet for some time but finally spoke. Mr. Lee told me that he was killed during a battle among some feuding warlords in their region. His friend was caught caring for some refugees as war raged in that portion of China. Then Mr. Lee pointed to himself and said, "Allen, I am my friend's tracks that he left many years ago."
Even then, I realized that Mr. Lee's own tracks would last as long with me. Now, you also have become a part of Mr. Lee's legacy if you reach out to help those around you who could benefit from your care and concern. The tracks that you leave will last far longer than the ephemeral snow.