I will always remember January 17, 2022 as the day I saw for the first time, how mother nature can bring life to a standstill. Having had a rather sheltered life, I always thought that things like extreme weather events were the stuff of TV news channels. Until the worst snowstorm in decades literally came knocking on our doorsteps.

With over 50 centimetres of snow dumped onto the Durham region, life came to a standstill. People could not get out of their houses, businesses were shut, cars were fishtailing on the roads and there was general chaos all around. In the middle of all this, I started to see what being a part of a community can really mean.

I have lived in a dozen cities across three continents. In eleven out of the twelve cities that I have lived in, neighbours do not know each other. If you smile at someone on the street, the other person will lower their eyes. And there is no concept of community.

So when my family moved to Canada in 2018, the concept of “community” was very alien to me. Did it mean me and my neighbours? Did it include everyone on the street? Our subdivision? The city? It could not be clearer to me than what I saw right after the snowstorm that walloped Durham and much of the Greater Toronto Area on January 17, 2022.

We have a fairly large driveway that fits six cars and we have a tiny electric snowblower. When I started clearing my driveway using my snowblower, my elderly neighbour saw me and came over with his machine to lend me a hand. He is over 70 years in age, but he is always more than willing to help me out. He waved away my protestations saying that his snowblower is light and meant for the elderly and it is a good exercise for him anyway. I was bowled over when he cleared the top of the driveway with ease while I was still struggling with the bottom part.

Then we heard this story of a woman in Bowmanville whose baby was due the day the snowstorm hit. The entire neighbourhood came together to make way for the family to get to the hospital in time!

As the day was winding down and it became clear that we have just seen the worst snowstorm in decades to hit the Greater Toronto Area, my wife told me of a couple who had recently moved into the neighbourhood. The couple were down with COVID symptoms and were in no condition to come out and clear their driveway or the sidewalk. They had just posted for help in the community Facebook group. I volunteered to go there to help. When I reached their house just a five-minute walk away, four people had reached there with an assortment of snowblowers and shovels that the task of clearing their snow was well and truly underway.

This snowstorm showed me what it meant to be living in a community. For the first time, I got a real peek into what it means to be looking out for each other. while the snowstorm was a one-day event and the snow that it dumped would melt away in a month or two, the learning and memories that it gave me will probably stay stay with me for a lifetime.

About the Author

Gaurav is passionate about travel, culture, and family. He lives in Durham region with his wife, their son, and their yellow Labrador Retriever, Woofy..