Mom always shovels the driveway. It’s a phenomenon I’ve noticed time and again. We live in a neighborhood that has a lot of single moms. I suppose the statistics dictate that most neighborhoods have more than their fair share of single moms. But ours seems to have an unusual amount. I think it is related to the housing prices here. We live in (quite literally) the most affordable housing in town. It is one of the very few neighborhoods in the area where a single income can support a mortgage. It is one of the few neighborhoods that is nice, that is safe and where the homes are small enough to be affordable. And so we have many young couples, many elderly couples, and many single parents. The single moms may have one child, they may have two or three. In most cases the children are teenagers, in their twenties or even in their early thirties. In almost every case there is at least one boy thirteen or older who is able-bodied. Yet in almost every case, mom is the one who shovels the driveway.
I remember being a rebellious, listless teenager. I remember how little I wanted to do much of anything for anyone else. I remember our elderly next-door neighbor had a heart attack and was unable to do any strenuous labor. We had a good snowfall one day and I was enjoying the day from the refuge of my bedroom in the basement, lying across my bed reading a book and listening to some music. My father came down and told me in no uncertain terms that I was to go upstairs, get my winter gear on and get outside to shovel the neighbor’s driveway. He gave me a figurative (and perhaps literal–my memory is a little hazy) kick in the rear-end and sent me on my way. I went outside and there was my neighbor’s wife, shoveling the drive. I pitched in and soon had it cleared. The lesson has stuck.
Dad had high expectations of me, but reasonable, biblical ones. He wanted me to be proactive in service to others; he wanted me to be looking for opportunities to serve and for opportunities to serve as a man serves; he wanted me to use my (growing) strength to serve other people.
I have a boy of my own now and I can see that some of what was in me is in him. He is a good kid, a kind soul. Yet he is sometimes as reluctant to serve as I was when I was young. I am seeking to teach him that he is to use his strength, his ability to serve others and especially to serve those who are weaker or less able than he is. It will not be long before my son is stronger than my wife. Already when they goof around together I can see that she does not have a whole lot on him. What becomes of a mom when she has children who are bigger than she is, stronger than she is, and yet with so little maturity, so little restraint? What happens when there is no one to mentor the boy, to teach him that his strength must be used to serve others?
This is a lesson a father needs to pass to his son. It’s a lesson that no one has taught to so many of the boys who live around me. A few weeks ago I saw a mother struggling with a load of groceries while her boys pushed past one another and past her to get into the house. I stopped them and told them to get back to the car to help their mother. They looked at me blankly and walked into their house, mumbling an excuse. Mom struggled down the walkway she had shoveled with the groceries she was forced to carry. Dad is long gone. There is no one to give these boys the good, swift kick to the posterior that would get them acting like men.