I closed on the purchase of my condo on September 10, 2001. (Yes, the day before 9/11.) The next morning, I was headed to Hawaii for a family vacation. Needless to say, it didn’t happen. We were stuck in Los Angeles and ended up driving back to Denver. (FYI, a really long road trip with your parents, as an adult, is not as much fun as it sounds.) We eventually made it to Hawaii a few months later. However, I digress. The intro just made for an interesting lead to the real point of my story: How I learned about the importance of being neighborly.
It was my first-time buying a home, so I was nervous and excited. (I was able to put down about 35% in cash because of my money-savings ways. I told you I was a born cheapskate!) I also wish someone had warned me about the HOA fees. I thought it was all part of my monthly payment. For a person who budgets every penny, the extra bill was a total shock. I still cringe every time I write the monthly HOA check. It was not in my original budget, darn it! (If you’re a first-time homebuyer, don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. I wish I had been more confident in the whole process.) Okay, back on point…again.
Now, I’m not the friendliest person. On the Internet, I may seem “out-going and friendly.” However, I am not. I tend to be shy, reclusive and a home-body. (I think the proper medical term is “Bitter Betty.”) However, you’d think living in such close quarters with others that I would be forced to meet my neighbors. No, not true. You’d be surprised at the powers of someone who wants to be left alone. (My advice: Don’t make eye contact and walk fast!)
In the first 12 years, I never met any of my neighbors. Not one. Nada. Zippo. With one notable exception. I was on a first-name basis with the unit owner directly above me, thanks to his washing machine hose bursting just six months into my moving in. (We had another watershed moment a few years ago, when his water heater leaked!) Let’s just say, Mr. Water and I are not on friendly terms. (In both cases, he never apologized or offered to help with the damage or inconvenience in any way. And you wonder why I don’t like people?) Him aside, I could not tell you one thing about the dozens of people who lived just feet away from my front door.
That was true, up until a few years ago. That was when the wonderful twins came into my life. To get to my front door, I have to pass their front door — always decorated for the appropriate season or holiday, whether it’s large hearts or spooky ghosts. Plus, they’re amazing gardeners, so the pathway is always blooming with colorful flowers and plants in the spring/summer. I smiled every time I passed (and still do) because the flowers and decorations brighten my day, no matter my mood.
With my head down, I passed for years giving off please-don’t-talk-to-me vibes. One day, while watering the plants, Geraldine caught me off guard on my fast-paced walk to my front door and started chatting. Next thing I know, she’s giving me a tour of her condo. Soon after, I met her identical twin, Nadine. (By the way, I’m convinced they should both be professional interior designers. They have an eye for design, color and layout…and mostly from consignment stores and thrift shops. My kind of ladies! I’d love to submit them for one of those reality shows on HGTV. Their fun personalities are perfect for TV…plus, they’re twins!)
We’ve been friends ever since. We go to dinner and the movies on occasion, share treats/gifts with one another and have a good ol’ laugh-fest every few weeks catching up on the goings-on of the complex. I like to send them funny cards in the mail, even though they’re two steps from my front door. Nadine also bakes the best bread and cookies. (I get giddy every time I see a bag hanging on my front door because I know it’s from my favorite neighborhood bakery!) There is no hidden motive or selfish act, like so many relationships today — just good friends. I like them and they like me. We’re “different” in so many ways, but that’s what makes the unexpected friendship so special. (We laugh because I cry at every Hallmark commercial and they never shed a tear!)
In the end, the valuable lesson I learned is to never shut yourself off from the generosity and kindness of others. And, in turn, don’t be afraid to be generous and kind to others. (I also gleaned the importance of not judging someone because of their gender, race or age, as can be so easy to fall into nowadays.) I’m a 45-year-old Mexican-American man. The twins are 70-year-old Caucasian women. (In truth, they’re celebrating their 70th birthday this summer. However, they don’t mind me sharing their age because they look fabulous!) First off, I don’t make friends easily. And, secondly, I would have never even considered the twins as “potential friends.” If I had kept steadfast to my self-imposed “rules”, I would have missed out on the joy and laughter their friendship brings into my life — not to mention, the homemade banana bread!
Don’t be like me. Take a chance and say, “Hello!” to the neighbor you always see walking their dog or co-worker you always pass in the break room, but don’t even know their first name. You just never know where friendship may bloom.
Do you have an unexpected friendship in your life? Are you friends with someone “opposite” of who you are?
I look forward to our next chat. And, remember, there’s always a deal, you just need to look for it. :-)