Today we had one of those moments I want to remember long after the seminary experience has ended.
A few weeks back, our downstairs neighbor came up to apologetically tell us that something in our girls’ bedroom was making a loud noise all night long and keeping them awake. After some investigation, we discovered it was the window fan, which was old and had a nasty tendency to go “thrum, THRUM, THRUM THRUM THRUM, thrum, thrum.” This was only mildly annoying to us, and didn’t keep the girls awake, but the noise traveled right down through the wall and made it impossible for them to get any sleep in the bedroom below.
It was an easy fix – as I said, the window fan was old, and we just switched it out for a floor fan. No more noise, everyone was happy, we thanked them for telling us, as we would have felt terrible about keeping them awake unknowingly, and they thanked us, and we went on our ways.
Then this afternoon, the neighbor came back up, this time with a box containing half a dozen lovely cupcakes from their favorite bakery. He handed them to us with another thank-you about the fan, and we thanked him for the cupcakes, and that was that.
(I told Carl after my first bite – they were amazingly good – that we should think up some other noisy things to do and then stop doing, if this is going to be their way of thanking us for basic courtesy every time.)
We had terrible problems with our neighbors at our first two apartments. Loud music and TV all night long, shouting and arguing into the wee sma’s, cigarettes and other unpleasant smells entering our apartment whenever we opened our windows … And they seemed to glory in it, smirking when we would ask them to turn the music down at midnight, ignoring letters of complaint, knowing that all we could do would be to call the police (which we never did, although it retrospect we totally should have).
After that, we avoided living in close contact with anyone. At our last house, our neighbors were all separated by driveways and trees and bushes, and while we were all civil to each other, there was no neighborliness.
Last night our neighbors across the hall asked if we wanted to go get ice cream with them. Today I went to a couple different apartments on our floor to spur-of-the-moment give them some homemade granola (I’d made more than we needed). And then the cupcakes, for something we really didn’t think we even ought to be thanked for.
Sometimes living in cramped quarters with so many other people is hard. And sometimes, it is a really beautiful thing.
This is what I want to remember when we leave, not the times single students got fed up at kids working out energy in the halls during winter, not the times I couldn’t get my laundry done because everyone else was doing theirs the same day, not the times I choke while making supper because of the stink of people’s grills heating up below our window.
I want to remember the good things about the community, and the beauty of having so many lovely neighbors.