It was 7:00 in the morning and someone was knocking at my door. Rarely does anyone ever knock at my apartment door because I live in a gated community. And yet, the knocking persisted. To my surprise I opened the door to discover an irate woman complaining that ceiling noise at night kept her awake. It was my new neighbor from downstairs! It was her first night live in our apartment complex. I live in an identical 500 square foot studio apartment, only upstairs, right above her. I chose the upstairs apartment for a good reason—safety!
I thought my daughter and I were reasonable tenants. We read books at night. We don’t have a television, nor do we play music out loud. We have Spotify and use air pods. I wondered what noises kept her awake.
“Do you think you could walk more carefully across the floor?” she asked pointedly, her hands demonstrating a tiptoe motion across the floor. I listened. It was going to be a long year ahead for apartment living!
Jesus said to love our enemies. It was hard to extend peace, love, and kindness when someone was asking me not to make noise. To not walk across the apartment because the floor creaks!
In the days ahead, came the notes left on my car window. The first note was straight to the point. The second note was a ditty of a poem written on a circular piece of paper. It was written in beautiful calligraphy as an art piece. I thought to myself, this letter took quite a bit of effort! The theme wove love and a good night’s sleep together. I was beginning to feel harassed.
It was a season when things weren’t going well at work, and this was an added disturbance in my life. I wanted home to be a haven, but my new neighbor was making a peaceful home life elusive.
The grievances persisted. My daughter said, “Hey if she can’t sleep, she has had too much caffeine. It’s her problem.”
The management then called me. There was to be an inspection. I had to schedule a day to come home early from work so maintenance employees could pull up my carpets and hammer down the floorboards. The managers came with sound recordings from downstairs which sounded like rattling pipes.
More energy was spent on negotiating on how to remedy the situation. A few days passed. Then the phone call came from the manager. “Don’t worry about it anymore. This building was built forty years ago. There is nothing more to be done.” I was in shock! Rarely in my life did I feel like the “lot of favor” fell to me. There was nothing more to be done! There is no apartment law about walking across the floor at night to go to the bathroom!
I didn’t even know the manager who called me. I thought about God behind the scenes, working in ways we don’t always see. There are times in life when “pastures green” or “cool waters flow” in our direction!
As a Christian, I would have liked to have made concessions, but I could share no promises to my neighbor. Waking up in the middle of the night was part of life. But I did think about it. I tried my best to lessen the movement across the floor. I only vacuumed during the middle of the day. And when her dog howled for hours when left alone, I didn’t retaliate with a phone call to the manager or a note on her windshield.
I prayed that God might help me communicate without words; how to be loving by example. My epiphany came when parking my car one day; I could extend grace in how I parked my car next to hers in our adjacent spaces. For months, I parked my car so she had plenty of room to get out. I hoped the intentionality would be a witness to the cross necklace that hung around my rearview mirror.
One evening, several months later, as I was unloading groceries in the carport, my neighbor, dressed in evening attire, said “hi” and I said, “hi.” Her long hair was in an updo just like mine. Not completely sure about how to read her tone, I continued unloading my groceries as she got into her car.
Then came the day when my neighbor moved. I saw her SUV being loaded up, and then she was gone. I never shared with her that my daughter struggled with sleep, circadian rhythms ever since college. Or the history of why the second floor and not the ground floor feels safe to me. Much like church, apartment living can be an unexpected community. Living alongside the angry in spirit until they move, or I move. Or somehow, by God’s grace, we become neighbors.