“I didn’t want to live here.”
We had our community end of year party last night and this phrase came up a couple of times during the open mic time. It was true for me too. I didn’t want to live here mostly because the name of the community sounded funny (I won’t mention it here for internet security reasons). I knew nothing about any of the college residential communities before we started college but this one was at the bottom of my list purely for the weird name.
But now, like others reflected last night, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else while we’re studying at college (and even post-college too!). I don’t know of anywhere else where you can have a meaningful conversation with your neighbours as you hang out your washing on the same line, as you walk to the car, as your children play together in the playground, as you study in the rooms specifically designated for study, as you stand in your front doorway, as you take out the rubbish, as you check your letter box, as you drive to college together, as you borrow things from each other and return them later.
Last night one of the leaving students encouraged us to make the most of these opportunities for conversations. After all, if you can’t talk to your Christian neighbours in this safe and loving community then you certainly won’t be able to talk to your neighbours when you move away from living in Christian community.
I haven’t been good at using these opportunities. But last night I was encouraged to change. Often I would pass people hanging up their washing as I walked to the studies and I would say hello but not much more. It’s easy to tell myself that I was just busy with assignments or blame it on my introversion. But sometimes I would wonder and worry if it seemed like I was being rude.
One of the wives who I’ve become friends with over the two years we’ve both lived here told me that when she first met me she found me intimidating because I didn’t talk much. I didn’t talk much because I was shy and didn’t know what to say! She showed me that my silence can be misconstrued and I certainly don’t want that.
So neighbours, friends, I humbly apologise for the times when my conversations with you (or lack there of) have been cut short, awkward, rude, unloving or distracted. I truly didn’t mean to come across that way and I really do want to get to know you better. I’m sorry for my introversion, shyness and awkwardness.
Because of last night I’ve decided on next year’s community–living motto for myself (which I will start on right away and not wait for next year). Stop and Chat.
I will hang my washing outside more often, as much as I can, and I won’t opt to hang it inside just to avoid a conversation at the washing lines. As I walk to or from the studies I’ll stop to chat with the parents and children in the little playground. When I hear children playing outside I’ll go out to spend time with them and their parents.
All this I will do because relationships are more important than what is gained from being reclusive. Supporting each other is more important than studying. People are more important than personal planning.
I may need help, reminders and support. But I don’t want to waste this time we have living in this wonderful community. Thank you Christian neighbours for being so loving, welcoming and such great examples to me. I hope I can be the same.