Dec 6, 2010

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Apartment life is interesting. I guess this is my third apartment stint in my lifetime. In 5th grade, my family lived in an apartment in South Everett for six months while we were building our new house in Lake Stevens. Can you say ghetto? We lived about a block from Mariner High School, and I'm pretty sure I learned all the swear words I know (but try not to use) from the other kids around the complex during that time. My second apartment stay was during my sophomore year of college. I lived in the darkest, dingiest (is that even a word?) apartment with three other girlfriends. It was not sweet, but it was home and we loved it (at first...) because we were finally living "on our own." It got torn down a few months after we moved out... it was that bad.

And now Micah and I live in our sweet little apartment in Scottsdale, and I must say it is far better than my first two experiences. We have a pool, a hot tub, an exercise room, palm trees, and sunshine everyday. We also have two bedrooms, our own washer/dryer, and new carpet. Other than our stove, which I am pretty sure dates back to the 1950s, I have no real complaints (and, yes, we pray often that all our kitchen appliances will break, because our complex has promised to upgrade them to new ones if they do... Dear Lord, Thank you for this food and please help our oven to blow up next time we cook. Amen.)

The other interesting thing about apartment-life is having SO many neighbors. We have neighbors next to us, beneath us, behind us. They are everywhere. But in trying to be a part of our community for Christ's sake and intentionally trying to live on mission, having so many neighbors can be a really great thing. Get to know them. Invite them over. Live life with them. Share Christ with them. An apartment complex is ideal for this, except we don't have any neighbors...

We did have neighbors, and some very intersting ones at that, but they have fled like there is a plague...hopefully WE are not that plague. It all started about a week after we moved in with Bikini Babe. We moved in, Bikini Babe moved out. We met her on the stairs as she was moving all her stuff out of her apartment to move to another place nearby with cheaper rent. I call her Bikini Babe because she decided to clad her slightly overweight, 50+ year body in bikini for this moving task. She figured if she had to move all her stuff in the August heat, she might as well get tan doing it. Sure, whatever works. However, despite the move, out of all our neighbors, Bikini Babe is the most present in our lives to this day. She happens to be really good friends with the lady that lives beneath us, so she still comes over all the time.

After Bikini Babe moved out, another single lady took her place. She was a woman of mystery. I never saw her once in the three-ish months she lived right next to us. One time I saw a grandma-aged woman walk out of her apartment, but Micah informed me this lady was in her 30s or 40s, so this couldn't have been her. Another time I saw a teenage girl walk into the apartmet, still not her. Micah and I talked about meeting her. We talked about having her over for lemonade or dessert sometime, but we never made it happen, and then she was gone. Just like that. Pretty sure she broke her lease, because there is now some kind of court notificaiton stuck to her front door. Goodbye phantom neighbor.

And speaking of breaking a lease, that leads me to the most entertaining of all our ex-neighbors. Now overall, we have a pretty tame apartment complex. Lots of older single people, a few younger couples, recent college grads, a few families. A nice healthy mix of safe and quiet... except for the people who lived right below us. Of course. We got to know their Suburban better than we got to know them though, because it was always parked obnoxiously close to my car in our side-by-side covered parking spaces. The "man" of the family (husband is questionable...and based on his behavior, the term "man" is also questionable... it was more "boy in full grown body") drove this huge Suburban ridiculously fast through our parking lot, parked ridiculously crooked next to my car and always had the loudest rap music blaring, despite the young children in his backseat. One time he pulled into his parking spot so violently that he actually knicked my mirror, because my door was open as Micah was getting insurance info out of my car. When Micah told him he needed to drive more carefully, they guy started yelling and cussing at him. Thankfully Micah was in the middle of a phone conversation with the lovely people at Geico and was able to ignore the guy. If not for Micah's dedication to getting the best car insurance rate, there could have been a brawl. Thank you, gecko. The funniest thing about this guy's unruly driving habits and gigantic vehicle was the cross hanging from his rearview mirror and his license plate that had the faces of little children on it that read "Arizona - The State with Good Character." Ha. In the next few weeks, we noticed some very suspicious activity going on down below. There was a circuit of cars coming through the complex and the guy from below had a few other guys over during the late night hours when they would "work" on these cars in the pitch black with flashlights. The next day the car would be gone, but in the next night another one would take its place. Micah finally called the cops and just told them they might want to drive by and check it out. A few days later the cops were there again, but this time they were questioning a very upset woman (the "woman" to the "man") who was being comforted by a friend or sister. The man was nowhere to be seen. After that we never saw any of them again. Notices and bills began piling up on their front door and soon there was a legal sign in the window saying the property had been reclaimed... so long sweet neighbors.

So that brings us to where we are today... empty apartment next to us, empty apartment beneath us. After the lady next door moved out, Micah and I realized that if we want to be a light in our neighborhood, there is a definite sense of urgency. Apparently, it's not trendy these days to fulfill your one year lease obligation. But the truth of the matter is that these were our neighbors for a few months at least, and we never got to know them (aside from a verbal conflict with a very bad driver). We never had the lady next door over for lemonade. And for our crazy neighbor with "good character" we might actually be some of the only people with good, Christ-like character he will ever meet...and we never really got to meet him. So we are determined to meet whoever moves in next...with a knock on the door, a batch of cookies, whatever it takes. We won't delay, because we've realized that they might not be around for long. Until then, we will keep getting to know Bikini Babe when she comes to visit her friend downstairs.

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