Neighborly Good Will

July 13, 2009 at 11:42 am Leave a comment

Nearly two and a half months ago, I moved into this apartment. It is important to me to get along with the neighbors, thus I go out of my way to greet and introduce myself whenever I see a new face. There is a sweet woman who lives right next door to me.

This morning one neighbor rang my doorbell — a man with whom I’ve spoken a few times, when we happened to meet by the entrance. He explained to me how the newspaper subscription works. The paper isn’t delivered to my door, but put in a special mailbox — to which only subscribers have a key. I didn’t know that.

He then went on to tell me that he’s been here for 30 years — since the building was built. In his opinion, it’s gone down hill. People don’t adhere to the “house rules” as strictly as they once did, and there are a couple of families with loud children, which he finds rather annoying. Then he asked me about the cat ramp. I explained that the superintendant had told me that the previous tenants had one, and that I had first asked the downstairs neighbors if it would be okay. He lives two floors above me, and I guess it bothers him when he looks down — though it is on the side of the building and hidden by trees. But the principle of the matter is, that it isn’t allowed. Apparently the previous tenants had to remove it. I didn’t know that. He said to leave it for now.

Then there was one more thing: my mailbox. He informed me that I could change the name inside the plastic box myself. I agreed. Yes, I’d noticed a few days ago that I could, but hadn’t gotten around to it. At first I’d simply written my name on a label and stuck it on the mailbox. He told me it just doesn’t look nice — stickers and things. Plus there were the remains of an old sticker on my mailbox. In his opinion, it just doesn’t look nice. The building should be uniform, with appropriate name tags inside the plastic frames on the mailboxes, and everyone should have the same rights. That was again a reference to the cat ramp. Imagine if everyone built a ramp from their apartment! Oh, dear!

I printed out a very nice version of my last name, centered and in bold print, and went downstairs to change the name. I tend not to notice things like that, nor do I care. On the contrary, stickers and remains of stickers reflect a certain “history” for me. Whatever. But now I am glad I changed the name. Not only do I want to appease that neighbor and hope that he’ll leave my cat ramp alone, but something happened as I took out the old name, scraped off the sticker remnants, and inserted my name. Quite unexpectedly, it turned out to be a little arrival ritual. Now I am really here. That transformation caught me by surprise. And I must admit, it looks SO much better now!

My neighbor is someone I need to get along with — at least on a superficial level. I must admit it was embarrassing to open the door in my pyjamas at 11 am on a Monday morning! But I threw on a sweatshirt, so it looked like I had a summer dress on. And I didn’t open the door the whole way. When he returned 5 minutes later with the key for the newspaper mailbox, I was dressed and looked more orderly. Not that I care what people think of me, but when they live so close, minimal effort can go a long way. Nor will I let him annoy me. As Dalai Lama said: If you have problems with someone, try to remember that they are also a person like you and they just want to be happy. That’s not his exact wording, but it gets the message across.

In two weeks I’m playing at a peace festival. Peace must begin in the heart and then extend to the neighbors. For me, that’s a true step towards world peace — on a very basic, do-able level. After all, if I am not at peace with myself, how can I possibly deal with the neighbors? Or my colleagues at work? Or the grumpy old lady on the subway? Or the civil servant who doesn’t seem to want to help me? When I have inner peace, I cope with them in a better way than when I’m frustrated. But let me stop now, or this will become another marathon rambler…

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