By Emily Kulkus
I’ve lived in the city of Syracuse for nearly 20 years. My family is fortunate to live across the street from a gorgeous city park surrounded by a community of kind neighbors. Having grown up in the country, I’m thankful for city living. And I realized this week that I’m especially thankful for one particular aspect of city living: sidewalks.
Those narrow strips of concrete are ubiquitous with community life. And for as much as we take them for granted, someone, somewhere decided they should be a community staple; bravo to that person!
Now what’s the big deal about sidewalks? I mentioned that we live across the street from a city park, which means the sidewalk in front of our house gets a lot of traffic – people walking their dogs, pushing strollers, jogging, biking and visiting other neighbors. Shortly after we moved into this house a few years ago, I introduced myself to Jim, a sidewalk regular. Jim works hard to keep to himself. He stares at the ground when he walks by, intent on reaching his destination, focused on his own thoughts.
We hired Jim to do a little yard work for us last summer. Since then, he’s taken to shoveling our sidewalk for us, which feels like a grand gesture on nights when we don’t get home until 6 p.m. and dinner and baths and books all have to get crammed into the next 120 minutes. To thank Jim for his kindness, I gave him a little bag of cookies around Christmas time.
A few weeks later I was backing out of the driveway and Jim rushed up to the car. He looked upset. I rolled the window down and he said, “WHAT was in those cookies?” But before I could answer though, he rolled into a long and excited explanation for what he thought of the cookies. “They were awesome. I loved them. I don’t know what’s in them? I’ve never tasted anything like that before. I just couldn’t figure it out.” And on and on. He was so animated and excited in that moment, Jim looked more like a 10-year-old than a man who’s witnessed more than a few presidential administrations.
You can find the recipe for these cookies here, which I’m happy to share since they are easy to make and are always a hit. We’ve had quite a bit of snow since that first cookie delivery back in December so my daughter and I made him a new batch on Tuesday night. The following night my husband ran into Jim on the sidewalk while walking the dog and said, “Have you seen my wife yet?” To which Jim immediately replied, “Did she make more cookies?” Less than 15 minutes later he was on our front porch, shovel in hand, smile on his face.
Now if it weren’t for those sidewalks, which for nearly two decades have kept me running and walking all over this city, I never would have met Jim. (And he wouldn’t have those cookies!) But it’s those chance encounters in life that I love. Our sidewalks help worlds collide in small but memorable and meaningful ways. It’s been another busy week for all of us, but I have to tell you that seeing the look on his face when he realized we'd made a big old batch just for him was the best part of my week. All thanks to that little strip of concrete that sits quietly outside my window, every day of the year.
Emily Kulkus is marketing coordinator at Fleet Feet Sports, Syracuse. Reach her at email@example.com.