When I was younger, I dreamed of the day I would move out of my parents’ home and into my own apartment. Or more specifically I dreamed of what my apartment would look like. Suffice to say, I do have an apartment that is full of personality thanks to my decorating tastes (fortunately, roommate Sarah doesn’t enjoy decorating so she left that important decision up to me). I thought my zany, but lovable neighbors would popping in all the time and our pad would be the hub of the social scene. Heck, maybe it would be so cool they’d make a reality T.V. series about the ins-and-outs of my living space. Personally, I believe I was ruined by shows like “Friends,” “Frasier”, and “Will & Grace” who always had something happening at their residences.
Apartments are funny little things. They’re little box dwellings crammed together with other little box dwellings that form a giant building. Each dwelling houses a “family unit,” no matter how unique. with its own way of doing things. For the most part, the family units keep to themselves offering cheery hello’s in passing or pithy conversations during dog walks. But other than that, we keep to ourselves sharing a parking lot, a couple of washers/dryers, and a building. We are together, yet separate.
Sometimes I wonder if we’re living is entirely too close to one another. Right now, I’m listening to the ear shattering booms of the workmen doing who knows what to the apartment above mine. The former tenants, who were terrible neighbors (remember the bleach incident?), moved out after only occupying the residence for a year. I mean, how much work can an apartment need after only a year (especially when it was updated only a year ago)? Then last night at 12:30 AM, I marched downstairs to ask our first floor neighbor to turn down his music since our floor was vibrating making it hard to sleep. He kindly complied. I knew I’d be up in a few hours when the workmen came clomping in to start another workday.
Despite living so close to so many (annoying) people, I barely know my neighbors. Sure, I know the names of the people across the hall and the names of a few dog owners in the other parts of the complex. Most specifically, I know their dog’s name; I’ve no clue who they are. We dog people are like that–we know the dog, not the person.
I’ve met a few others, too–there’s Jenny an oncology nurse who smokes cigarettes on her porch, Donna who lets her gray cat wander about the back steps and her son Eric (or Derek I forget) who we affectionately call “ADHD Boy”, the screech monkey boys ranging in ages from 9-12 (I have a certain fondness for them), and the lady with the Westie who has a Vitamin D deficiency (the lady, not the dog). An older lady named Gladys has two dogs and likes to chat. Oh, and there’s Maurice (or Morris)…at least I think that’s his name. He sits out in front of his first floor apartment when it’s warm. He doesn’t like to eat chicken. I always imagine Maurice and Gladys hooking up.
We’re all neighbors, and we have neighborly discussions about neighborly topics such as “Well, the people on the third floor are finally moving out” and “Soon the complex pool will be open” and “I almost ran over the screech monkey boys because they were skateboarding in the middle of the road again!” Of course, those are the neighbors that talk. Many just go in and out of their apartments to work, to socialize, to do who-knows-what, and come back again. They offer a small smile and a heartfelt “hi” but largely remain disconnected from the rest of their neighbors.
This sort of establishment is hard for a people-person like me. I want to know everyone, be able to pop in on my neighbors every so often, and make little Easter baskets for the folks in my building. I want to connect with others and I want to connect deeply. Not only are we both human with experiences, ideas, opinions, and talents, but we live in close proximity! What a great basis for a relationship! I met two of my dearest friends at my old apartment complex, and we still see each other at least once a week. Sadly, this is the exception, not the rule.
I am reminded of Jesus’ call to love my neighbors, and not just love them, but to love on them. So I will continue to smile, engage in small talk, and seek out relationships with my neighbors as we live in our city of furnished boxes. Even when they’re too loud and even when they hog the washing machine. It’s sad to think we’re all so close, and yet we remain so far away from one another.