Sunday, August 24, 2008

Small Lessons

I've got a short story this time, but one which I've been keeping in mind during our big transition. As I mentioned in my last post, our apartment was less than ideal when we first arrived. We're pretty happy with it now, and I'm sure it will suit us well over the next year or two. But as I was in the throes of feeling sorry for myself over it last week, I had an encounter with one of my new neighbors.

This lovely woman is living with her husband directly across the hall from Steve and I, in an apartment which is the mirror image of ours. When Steve and I were still furniture-less and I was feeling pretty bad about the apartment, I ran into this neighbor (I think I went over there to borrow a can opener, actually). Now my neighbor is considerably older and wiser than I am, and probably owned a house before she uprooted herself to come to seminary and move into the apartments here. What I'm trying to say is, she (unlike me) is not in her early twenties and living in her first apartment. She probably has the right to expect a lot more from her living space than I do--keep in mind that the last place I lived was a dorm room. So I went next door to borrow a can opener, and my neighbor began praising her new situation. "These apartments are so great! They really did a good job of using every last inch of space." I admit, I was a bit taken aback. Peering suspiciously into her apartment (Did they get a better apartment than we did? Had we been short-changed?), I said cautiously, "Yeah, they're okay. I don't know about yours, but ours is pretty small." She responded enthusiastically, "Sure, they're small, but we have so much cabinet space! And a coat closet--I love having a coat closet!"

Though she had certainly not meant her comments in this spirit, I felt quite ashamed of myself. What do I have to complain about, after all? We have the space we need, and the rent is really good, and yes, we do have a coat closet. I should be trying to foster the same attitude of enthusiasm and grace my neighbor shows. Perhaps it's grace that comes with age, not a better apartment. And it's these role models who make me really glad I've come here. I have a lot still to learn, and learning often doesn't need or want a classroom. Sometimes all we need is a really good neighbor.

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