I met Laurence when I moved into my flat in 2010.
He was King of the Block with a strict schedule for the bins and high standards for mowing the shared lawn.
“Great to know someone’s looking out for the place” I thought.
But when he yelled at me for putting up a simple notice in the shared hallway I was devastated. I didn’t want to confront everyone individually about the late night music so crafted what I thought was a friendly sounding note.
I’d only been there a few months and felt like I couldn’t face a future in the building.
“You’ve upset everyone in the building. They’re all scared they’ve done something wrong!”
When the King is angry at you there aren’t many allies to be found.
But I worked at it. I fixed a smile on my face and did my best to remain a friendly and thoughtful neighbour, making a point to speak to them. Rebuilding bit by bit even though I felt unwanted.
I rebuilt with Laurence too even though I still felt hurt.
And when Laurence fell sick with cancer I would water his garden while he peered down from the window. No doubt I was doing it wrong.
When he was too sick to watch from the window I brought him some vegetables from my garden which were gratefully accepted and apparently made a good soup.
Laurence died a few weeks later.
Everyone from the building went to his funeral and sat together.
The time I invested in Laurence and the other neighbours was very difficult. But now we have a strong bond. They’re my community. They help me when they can and I do the same for them.
Your neighbours may be rude. Or they may be clingy. But the time and effort you invest in those relationships is vital to living well when you’re on your own.
Build the community you want to live in.