I remember back in my twenties when I was living in a condo, there was a grumpy, elderly man named Len who lived just above me. He would stand on his balcony and talk to me as I was coming and going from my car parked in our outside lot. He would often ramble on about the horrible people living in the building; like the lady who lived above him who had kids that jumped around. Drove him nuts. Or the larger woman he called “beached whale” who would suntan half-nude in the grassy area in his view.
I would try and dodge Len as much as I could to avoid being held in long conversations keeping me from my busy, young adult schedule – which mostly included heading out to the next party or project for work.
There was a week my husband and I noticed Len wasn’t out on his balcony and we hadn’t heard him banging his broom on his ceiling telling the poor mom and her kids to “Shut up!” for the hundreth time. Turns out, Len had been on his floor for three or four days after falling and couldn’t get up. He was lying there in his own urine and feces. My heart sunk for poor Len. If I had only taken the time to check on him…
This past weekend, we had to call on a young adult neighbor who lives across the street. Our monkey-toddler striked again and plugged the bathroom sink – like really bad. Thank goodness our young neighbor had the time to come over to help, saving us an $800 plumber bill. As he is in the midst of gutting and renovating his place, he could have easily said “no” or made an excuse why he couldn’t. And my next door neighbour got me out of a pickle this week by babysitting my kids while I work, as I couldn’t find anyone. So glad she was available!
The problem with knowing our neighbors is that they can inconvenience us. From actually having to take the time to talk to them or help when in need – it really doesn’t suit our busy lives. To know our neighbor might mean we need to forgo the beach and sacrifice our time to help. It may require a listening ear when our house is calling out for us to clean it (in which we’ll probably ignore it anyways…).
It will never be convenient, but in times of need, we’ll be happy we took the time. Maybe it’s time to return to a simpler life that gives time to invest in relationships and community – things that go deeper than money.