Birthday Treat

Earlier this week, I celebrated my 42nd birthday, and randomly the highlight was shoveling snow with a homeless man. The actual day was one of the best birthdays I have had in a long time — probably because I had zero expectations of a COVID birthday and so everything was so much better, lighter, and happier than other days (and birthdays). But honestly, my 90 minute shoveling experience was the best. OK, so let me explain.

Yes, I shoveled a track.

As the avid runner that I am, one of my weekly workouts is a speed workout on the track. I have a love/hate relationship with the track because it is extremely challenging — both mentally and physically. Going around in circles, getting faster at each section, and just busting my butt. But I love the feeling afterwards — nothing can compare. I am especially fond of my track in NYC because it is on East 6th Street and the FDR and is right next to the projects. It has a gorgeous view of Brooklyn and the East River and it always has a wild selection of people: elite runners, old Chinese women doing tai chi, a man that does dance cardio, a homeless person getting in steps, you just never know who will be there.


So on my birthday morning, after dropping the kids off at school, I went as planned down to the track for my workout. Sadly, I found that due to the 17 inches of snow downfall from the previous week, there was no way whatsoever I would be able to do my run. So, I went BACK uptown to the gym (yep, running with a mask on) to do my work out.


Run Forrest Run.


After the gym, I went back home to realize — WAIT, I have a couple more free hours and why not pay it forward and shovel a lane for future fellow runners? So, I borrowed a shovel from my doorman and went back down to the Lower East Side. I talked to my brother on the phone on the way down and he said there was no way that I would be able to accomplish this task in 1.5 hours and that it was going to be way harder than I thought…..


And yep, it was hard. It was pure ice and you had to POUND it to break it up. After a while, a dude walked up to me and asked if I worked for Parks and Rec (made me giggle). I said no. He asked why I was doing this then, I said “paying it forward for future runners who want to run this track.’ He looked at me in disbelief and said “can’t runners run on the flat streets?” and then suggested he help me out. Long story short, we found him another shovel, and he would break the ice, and I would scoop it out (mask on, 10 feet apart).


1/2 way around the track = 200 meters = 0.12 miles of shoveled ground!


It was a very challenging workout and I needed breaks here and there (I took off my coat, my hat, it was HOT in 25 degree weather). My new friend looked at me and said “I’ve never seen someone so fancy shoveling snow before. You don’t look like a person that would shovel snow, but you are so much stronger than me.” He was so kind and it blew me away that he wanted to help a stranger out (doing a strange thing) because well, why not! At the end of our 90 minutes together, he asked if I was coming back the next day because he would come and help.



I loved this interaction, the connection, and helping out with other civilians to be able to run. It made me so happy, and made me realize that I want to do more random simple acts of kindness and how it just feels GOOD to make people smile. Any suggestions on simple acts that can make a big difference? Happy Friday!

Anika Yael Natori, aka, The Josie Girl

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