I’ve been living in this apartment complex for nearly 10 years now. Residents have come and gone but the complex would remain essentially the same. People would keep to themselves – if you saw a neighbour coming or going you might wave, but aside from that it has been a very private place. We keep to ourselves and respect others privacy. Its impersonal, but its how I’ve always liked it.
All of that is changing. People have become visible. On Saturday, in our normally quiet courtyard, the lads downstairs set up a table tennis table and played games. Up on the top floor, a young couple spent most of the afternoon blowing bubbles over the courtyard and watching them float around. My neighbour Claudette and I meet each Saturday and go for an hours walk around the neighbourhood. When I run into Tim and Sarah, who live downstairs, we are always pleased to see eachother and have a good long chat.
Meredith (upstairs) and I have started helping eachother out with things, like collecting the mail or newspapers if the other is going away.
One neighbour, whom I have never spoken to before as he lives in a different part of the complex, saw me carrying in the bags of shopping from the supermarket and held the door open for me. A simple courtesy I know, but in the past we were all so scared of intruding on people’s private worlds that courtesys didn’t always occur. How can they when you are trying to avoid eye contact with your neighbour?
It started to change last year when Claudette and another neighbour organised a barbecue in the courtyard for the residents. Then she asked Michael and I over for dinner.
I was nervous about the changes. I didn’t know what obligations this might bring, or where the boundaries were. It was easy enough to smile and wave at a neighbour – but I was worried about engaging in conversation – I didn’t want to waste their time if they were busy, or intrude into their private world. But now things seem to be settling into a new pattern – its easy and comfortable again.
After ten years of living here, we’ve started to become a community – and its a happy one.
Isn’t it amazing how one or two people can make a difference. If Claudette hadn’t moved here and decided she wanted to get to know her neighbours we would be still be living our isolated lives in our separate apartments. What we have now is so much better.