Doing Good Work

Brendan Smithby Brendan Smith, Weirs Times editor

Even during the harshest of winters, like this one, I try to find something nice to do for others. While some turn to the dark side and use cabin fever and a lack of sunshine for their fall from grace, I find it best to fight back by doing a few good deeds.
Occasionally, those good deeds will offer up unexpected rewards.
For instance. I received a nice letter in the mail from my electric company, commending me on taking the time during these winter storms to shovel out a path from the street to the electric meter so their reader could do his/her job a little easier.
It did make me feel good to know that my “extra mile” was recognized and that in turn I also made someone else’s life a little bit easier; even if it was just for a few minutes and even though my thought in shoveling out the path was to give the oil delivery guy a nice path and the concerns of the meter reader never really crossed my mind, it still gave me a warm feeling inside.
Doing good by keeping people level-headed and from going over the edge in the winter is something I have been committed to for years, along with my friend Vinnie, when we started FATSO years ago. FATSO (Flatlanders Adjusting To Solitary Oblivion) is a winter support group for new transplants to the area. We don’t get paid for our efforts and find the work rewarding.
Most folks think that our only course of action with FATSO is to help others learn how to properly do things in the winter; actions that one needs to master in order to survive in the winter like the best way to rake your roof and which snacks are essential to have on hand in case you should lose power during a blizzard.
We also pride ourselves on being there for emotional support. Knowing how to do things to survive is essential but knowing how to keep your sanity while doing things like shoveling your driveway in wind chills of twenty below for the sixth Sunday in a row takes an even keel.
In the past, this has been done at our regularly scheduled monthly FATSO meetings usually held at the a local restaurant or grange hall. (We usually have the first one of the year at a restaurant so we can explain to new members what a grange hall actually is so they will be able to find it for the next meeting.)
Over the years we have seen FATSO membership and attendance at these events decline, even in the coldest and snowiest of winters. At first we were unsure of the reason. Were there really that many less new transplants coming to the area?
It was hard to understand seeing that these past two winters have really been a testing ground for finding out which new transplants would still be here once the first sniff of that frozen dog dropping is exposed by the warmer suns of early spring.
So,Vinnie and I have decided to travel to the FATSO members. Bundling ourselves up against the elements we have been travelling door to door in Vinnie’s pickup, searching out those who may be on their last legs, ready to pack their bags and move south.
The first few houses we stopped at were where natives lived who were quick to tell us while standing outside in T-shirts, that these past two winters have been nothing like the winter of such and such a year. We felt like we were losing the focus of our goal as each native tried to top the other with a story of a horrible winter in the past.
But when we did finally find a house where a new transplant lived, we were glad we had continued on our quest. The man who came to the door was sallow-eyed, looking defeated, his calloused hands showing the ravages of his many attempts at keeping his narrow driveway clear as storm after storm came and went.
“I don’t even know why I bothered,” he said, a faraway look in his eyes. “It’s too damn cold to drive anywhere anyway.”
We spent a good hour there, calming him down, explaining that the spring really does come back. When we felt he was better, we left him with our phone numbers to call when he was feeling defeated again.
He wasn’t the first; there were many others like him and many more that we have yet to get to. We realized we can never get to them all but just the fact that we have helped a few makes us feel good.

Brendan’s new book “The Best Of A FOOL in New Hampshire” will be published in early spring. 

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