People in Ohio keep asking me what winter is like in North Dakota.

They want to know how many days a year school gets called off due to cold weather. I tell them, “Hardly ever.” They want to know how often our cars refuse to start. I tell them, “Nearly never.” And then they ask the biggie: Can you even go outside in that weather? I tell them, “Yes … but you have to wear a hat until May.”
The biggest difference I’ve noticed during my first winter in southern Ohio is the radical swing in temperatures. It will be nearly 60 degrees one week and 4 degrees the next.

And then there’s the snow. I understand the F-M area is having a “light snow year,” but having spent 10 years burrowing out of my Fargo driveway, the Ohio precipitation is a welcome relief. Snow generally comes down as sleet, which makes driving interesting in these Appalachian foothills, but at least there aren’t too many days of back-busting shoveling. If you wait an hour or two, the sun seems to do most of the work for you.

Imagine my surprise when I woke up a few weeks ago and it looked like Fargo outside. My driveway was covered in 6 inches of heavy, wet snow, and it was still coming down.

I knew I couldn’t wait for Mother Nature to melt it away. I was going to have to pull out the big red shovel. But first, I had to get the kids to basketball practice. I forced my minivan down the driveway and onto the street. Based on the difficulty my tires had cutting through the snow, I knew I had my work cut out for me when I got home.

But a few hours later, I was stunned to pull into a clean, professionally plowed driveway. Who in the world has a plow for the front of their truck around here? That’s a Fargo thing.

With the kids still in the car, I sat there babbling the only word I could think of – kindness. “Kindness! It’s kindness! Do you kids see this? Someone did an act of kindness for us!” I was nearly giddy.

Later in the day, I ran into a new neighbor who admitted she took the liberty of sending her husband (and his truck) over to do the job. Hallelujah!

I have such great fondness for my new neighbors. There is a tenderness and devotion that, selfishly, probably would not exist had they not literally cleared the path between their house and mine.

So what if that affection could spread throughout a whole town? That’s what city leaders are trying to create in Dilworth.

This winter, they have been promoting a program called “Shovel Dilworth.” They are asking people to spread goodwill throughout the land by shoveling neighbors’ sidewalks, fire hydrants, bus stops and the paths used by kids to get to school. The DGF High School National Honor Society members and Dilworth Boy Scouts are on board, both shoveling and convincing their classmates to join in. The goal is to incorporate the whole community, and eventually neighboring communities, like Moorhead.

Since it’s fun to give and to get, citizens who make the commitment to help can sign up on the city’s website for a chance to win a $25 gift card. You can enter yourself or another Good Samaritan. One mom entered her 11-year-old daughter, who has taken the program to heart in her own neighborhood.

Our chance to spread kindness by shoveling for others is quickly melting away. The Shovel Dilworth program goes until April 3, but will be back again next year, along with the snow.

Shovel Dilworth

Want to adopt a sidewalk or help a neighbor? Call Will Mackaman at (218) 299-7839 or register yourself at a chance to win one of five $25 gift cards donated by the Dilworth Lions Club and Park Board.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.