November 21, 2004

Dear Mr. Bush,

The sun cut through the thin, cool air as I reached back into the dirt, bare handed, and grabbed a handful of leaves and twigs; I could feel the warmth finally starting to reach my body, and it felt good to be out there in the dirt much too early on a Sunday morning working up a sweat even while my breath turned to steam as I exhaled. You guesed it, Mr. Bush: Yard work this morning with the neighbors, all of the people in my building, each one digging and raking and sweeping and sweating. This was one of the last weekends before the weather turns against us, and so it was decided that now was the time to give the yard a good clean-up before it went dormant for the winter.

We dug and laughed and told stories about our lives, and the only thing that could have made it more perfect would have been if somone had spontanously brought out a cooler of beer and we all sat around it, cracking cold ones and looking sunned and weary and thankful that the beer was chillier than the air around us.

It was a morning fit for a beer commercial, Mr. Bush, with neighbors throwing in together to make something happen--something simple, yes, but something kind of wonderful anyway.

Living in a city you're surrounded by so many people that you forget just what it means to have neighbors, to have people involved in your life for no other reason than that they live in your building or next door or down the street. There's a power in getting to know these people, in being involved--in small ways, never big--with their lives; in helping them out when they need something done, or them helping you when you need the door opened or air in your bike tire. Turn on the evening news and you're constantly told how disconnected modern life is making everyone; how distant everyone's growing from each other. But today, kneeling in the dirt, smelling the chill in the air and smiling as we worked, we were close, closer than we even knew.




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