Playing in ice and snow is normal where I come from. We were outside kids and not even snow and freezing temperatures could change that.
We climbed up the mountains with our skies, or went for a sleigh ride on an old inner tube. We build snow walls and ramps and were dreaming of becoming famous ski jumpers, because we all had been born with skies on our feet…so they say.
I was around 10, when we decided to build a snow house. We didn’t really have a plan, but we wanted to build a big igloo, like the one we had seen in a book.
We went to the library and read up on it. We had to pack the snow and cut out blocks. We weren’t allowed to use a saw -as we had planned- so we tried to get the blocks out with the shovel.
It was a big project and we worked hard for days. The little kids were our transport goats; the older children -like me- cut the snow blocks. It wasn’t a perfect igloo, far from it, but it started to look like something similar.
We had an entry and we even had made little seats out of snow. We got old carpets and rugs from our parents and an old kitchen curtain was used as a door.
We were so exited and talked about nothing else. Then finally everything was ready and we could move into our igloo.
It wasn’t big enough for all us, two kids didn’t fit it. They were standing there in front of the igloo and I could hear them sniffing. Two little kids were not allowed to come in, that rule had been quickly made up by the older kids.
It wasn’t fair; they had worked side by side with us and now they weren’t allowed to enjoy the igloo, because the older kids had set the rules.
Hansi, the little boy who spend so much time on our farm, was taking it hard. He had carried a bucket of snow for days and he wanted to be with all of us. He was my friend, even though I really never admitted it.
I don’t know why, but I decided to give up my seat for the two of them. I was one of the older kids and so I could come up with some rules as well.
I said what I was going to do and it was accepted.
Hansi and the other kid went in the igloo and I stood outside. I stood there outside in the cold and felt like an idiot. I could hear them laughing inside and I felt left out.
I felt so stupid and I wasn’t happy with myself. I would have taken my decision back, but really didn’t know how. “How did I end up being the fool?” I wondered. I wanted to help the little kids, but it didn’t feel good…it didn’t feel good at all. I was the looser and had done it all to myself.
Later on we went home and I was moping around and didn’t say much at dinner. I didn’t mention any of it. That was my secret…there was no need to let others know what a fool I was. I had learned my lesson. I would never do anything like that again for the rest of my life; that was the conclusion I came up with.
A few days later Hansi showed up and he told everybody what I had done. My Grandmother listened to his story and I could feel her eyes on me. I didn’t say anything, just “you’re welcome” when the little boy thanked me for the 100th time.
I knew that wasn’t the end of it, I knew that my Grandmother would bring it up sooner or later and I was right. “What’s bothering you?” she asked and I just stood there and didn’t say a word at first.
She always knew how to make me talk and sooner or later I told her how miserable I had felt all that time. I told her how much I had hated it, when the little kids were in the igloo instead of me.
“So why did you do it?” and I really couldn’t answer right away.
“I don’t know, I thought it wasn’t fair.” “I thought they would only stay in the igloo a little bit and then they would come back outside to get me.” That was the real issue, I wanted to help them, but only for a little bit.
“It made the kids happy,” she said and I just made a face.
“It didn’t make me happy,” I mumbled and I knew that what I was feeling was not what my Grandmother wanted to hear.
But nevertheless, it was true. I didn’t care anymore it they were happy; I only knew that I didn’t feel happy at all.
“Doing the right thing doesn’t always feel good,” and I knew that my Grandmother was right. “But maybe it wasn’t the right thing to do in the first place?” I wondered but deep down I knew better.
I had done the right thing; I just didn’t expect it to hurt me.
I never forget that, not because I am proud of myself…no far from it. I never forgot that doing the right thing had made me feel so uncomfortable.
This all happened over 50 years ago, but every year around Christmas I think about it.
Maybe doing the right thing has to hurt us a little bit. Maybe it’s all about leaving our comfort zone. It’s easy to throw a few bucks in a basket for the needy, it makes us feel good and don’t get me wrong, I do it to.
But the right thing would be to do more and I need this reminder from time to time.
Today I still try to to the right thing now and then and when I do then I don’t talk about it at all. Doing the right thing is something that I do quietly, it’s nothing to brag about. Sometimes it still hurts and sometimes I still sit there and feel like a fool.