As our time living in an apartment draws to a close, I've been thinking about the gifts that apartment living offers. While there have been challenges, there have been many benefits. We have a swimming pool right outside of our building (which is rarely occupied during the daytime hours), the staff fixes our maintenance issues, and we don't have to do yard work. Aside from these surface-level benefits, though, I deeply appreciate one particular gift of apartment living: Community and fellowship with others.
I know that many people live in mediocre-or horrible-apartment situations, so I realize that this gift I speak of is very particular to my experience. It is a gift that I deeply appreciate, and it has helped form me as I journey into our next great adventure in a neighborhood.
The apartment complex where we have lived for nearly two years (ever since we came to Oklahoma) is small. I've taken walks, read books outside, and picked dandelions from the edges of the courtyards. I've gotten to know many of the staff members on some level. I've especially gotten to know some of the ladies who work in housekeeping here, and we've had beautiful conversations. They've broadened my perspective, and helped me to sympathize with experiences that are far different from my own.
The people who work here first knew me as the bookish girl who would sit outside with novels and notepaper, scribbling away as I worked on freelance articles. They saw me skip and bound outside out of excitement the first time I was contacted about speaking on Catholic radio. They delighted with me when I announced my pregnancy, and they enjoyed hearing updates throughout the months, as the baby (and my belly) grew bigger and bigger. They saw me swimming and walking in the pool on June 6 last year, my mismatched swimsuit concealing a giant belly. And one of them called me over to say "hi" the next day, to which I responded: Hi! How are you? Sorry, I can't talk now; I think I'm in labor and I'm headed to the hospital!
The staff members here were the first ones to welcome us back as we drove into the complex with a teeny tiny newborn baby boy in the backseat. They've watched him grow, and they've seen me learn and change and develop as a mother. They eagerly go out of their way to walk by us on the sidewalk, calling out, "Peter! Hi, Peter!" and they brighten as they gaze upon this young, precious life.
My fellow tenants have also been wonderful. Getting to encounter each other at the mail box, on the walking paths, or as we prepare for storms has been lovely. We've talked about trivial things, and we've discussed deep topics, especially post-election. They showered us with love and baby gifts when I gave birth last year, and they've repeatedly brightened my days. One of them has even been a prayer warrior for us for the past few weeks, asking God to help and guide us in the final steps of buying our house.
I have grown to appreciate living in my community. Not just living in my specific dwelling, and being absorbed in our own affairs, but knowing those people who live around me, and interacting with them. While there have been times that I'd love to be a little further apart from other people (like, ahem, when people smoke cigarettes in a "non-smoking" building), for the most part, I love being near others, getting to know these individuals whom God has placed in my life.
I believe that I first noticed how much apartment living has changed my perspective on community when we were house-hunting. When we visited the house we're buying for the first time, we stood in the backyard, looking around. There was a chain-link fence that went up waist-high. The realtor commented that, "It would probably be pretty easy to put up a privacy fence." When she said that, I was shocked. How isolating that would be! I thought. Granted, privacy fences aren't evil, and in some of the homes I lived in growing up, we had privacy fences-and I didn't think twice about it.
But now that I've been living in such close quarters to other people, I can't stand the thought of a privacy fence that cuts me off from the community. Perhaps this sentiment will change once we actually begin living in our new neighborhood, but for now, I'm excited that I'll be able to chat with our next door neighbor across the fence when I play in the backyard with my son. I don't know what God has in store for us in this next great adventure. I know there will be difficulties, I know there will be joys, and I know that it will be simply epic.