When I first glanced at the name of Canadian Tire’s winter-themed kindness campaign, I honestly thought it was called “Shove It Forward.” This made a strange kind of sense to me: It could have been an emphatic message about assertively, maybe even quite forcefully, paying the good deed forward.
Of course, the campaign is really about shoveling snow, not shoving kindness down people’s throats.
Here in Canada, snow shoveling is one of our official winter sports (I think). We wear uniforms (usually wool toques, deeply treaded boots and 2010 Winter Olympics mittens, slightly pilly with wear). We use specialized equipment – preferably ergonomic shovels with easy-grip handles, although any old aluminum thing will do in a pinch. And with practice, we improve and refine our technique.
Snow shoveling is not a team sport per se. But you do often see interplay, in the form of jovial comments exchanged between two adjacent driveways (“What a winter!” “You said it!”). The language rarely gets out of hand, although you may hear one or two curses aimed at a particular groundhog of note.
There are no national championships, no trophies, no medals. Snow shovelers, no matter how accomplished, never get celebrated. They don’t stand on a podium or receive flower bouquets or get asked to appear in a Nike commercial. What they do is work diligently and thoroughly to clean the white stuff away from their driveways and walkways.
And then, because this is Canadian society we’re talking about, more often than not they go next door, and similarly clear out a path for their neighbour.
The “Shovel It Forward” campaign is all about warming people’s hearts when the weather is unbearably cold. Canadians who shovel driveways for others are encouraged to report the good deed on the campaign website, or talk about it on Twitter. Canadian Tire is even supplying a number of limited-edition shovels to do the job (true to the name, you’re supposed to leave the tool with the neighbour so they can help someone else and pass it on).
With or without this campaign, Canadians everywhere are constantly shoveling it forward. On a blizzardy day, there’s no sound I love more than the distinctive rumble of a generous neighbour’s snow blower in my driveway, coming to the rescue. And my daughter and I, in turn, often wield our shovels on other people’s properties.
(These days, we do skip helping the cranky elderly neighbour I reported on here. Funny story: The winter after that episode, when I offered to help him after yet another heavy snowfall, he growled, “I don’t need help! I told you that last year!” At least his memory’s not failing.)