Little Ways to Make a Difference Where You Live
For almost a year now Josh and I have lived in our sweet little 280 sq ft. apartment in NE Portland, over the last year we have gotten to know our third-floor housemates in the usual run-inns of hallway banter, laundry, and borrowing tape, butter, and bottle openers. Because both of us have a deep desire for community, and because we believe Jesus meant it when he said love your neighbor, we began to experiment with a few other ways of siring up community on our floor.
In the winter months of last year Josh and I got creative, we borrowed a projector from our church family, got all the needed cables, chargers, laptop, popcorn covered in buttery-goodness, fresh baked chocolate chip cookies, and all of the blankets and pillows we owned, and projected a movie in our third-floor lobby. We did this a few times, and although not many people showed up, we had a good time together.
During the holiday months I began baking; I would set up a chair in the lobby with a little sign wishing people a Merry Christmas, or a Happy Friday, and leave out cookies, brownies, or fresh made hot cocoa and whipped cream. Although I hoped people would enjoy the treats and feel the stirring of community, it didn’t occur to me others would be inspired by my actions, until the day I walked into our lobby area and saw that another apartment on our floor had baked cookies and left them out for everyone with a little well-wishing sign. My heart overflowed when I saw that my actions had impacted someone, and that wasn’t the only time it happened during the winter.
After the Holidays passed I stopped putting treats out as often and Josh and I didn’t try to organize another movie night or third-floor community event. As winter came to a close a friend of ours moved away, he left us with a beautiful patio table and chair set, which we put in the lobby area, along with a pillow, and a few books; I decided to continue celebrating the coming spring by cutting out flowers, painting them, and taping them all over the lobby windows on our floor, along with a sign carrying an inspirational quote.
I began painting, a lot. As our tiny apartment filled up with my art I decided it would be fun to share with our floor, so I began putting them in the lobby area, hoping for others to share their own work. Although no one did, I did receive a few very positive comments, and was glad others were enjoying it.
Josh and I like to decorate the hallway side of our apartment door; we have a colorful sign with a feather that says The Knapps (that’s us), a welcome rug, beads strung around our doorknob, and, wait for it, a pair of inviting googly eyes to tie it all together. The googly eye obsession began a few months ago during a not-so-ordinary trip to the craft store in which I recalled a prank at camp when friends and myself googly-eyed everyone’s water bottles. Needless to say I snatched a few packs and ran back to the apartment.
I placed googly eyes all over; the speaker box at the entrance, above the doorknob on the way in, and the way out, on the corners of the rails going up the stairs, on the latches of the window, on the doors to the third floor, and, all over our own apartment. I wasn’t sure, but I didn’t think I could get in trouble for some harmless fun. The googly eyes stuck around for a while, until one day a culprit began removing them all! (my bet is on the cleaning lady), but lo-and-behold, they have yet to find the ones on the window latches.
I began doing sidewalk chalk in front of our building a few months ago, I got some chalk from the craft store and thought at the very least it would bring color to the streets, and at most someone would be touched and truly inspired. I had a lot of fun with the sidewalk chalk, although during the first round the sprinklers came on and attempted to destroy the “Never be to old to play” and “You are cherished” pieces, it still prevailed! I hope many people have passed by, read the words, and smiled.
Community is not a luxury, its a necessity; we were all made for deep relationships, the problem is that we are afraid, afraid to get vulnerable, afraid to be exposed and seen, afraid of being rejected after we put ourselves out there. So although community is essential for us, it is not how most of us live anymore, especially in cities. We all long to have close relationships, to be truly known, and though many of us will not admit to it, or make moves to find it, it remains one of our deepest desires.
Josh and I found these fun little ways of connecting with people, and we hope that you will be inspired to find your own; we need one another in this life (however hard we try to disprove that), and more often than not you may be the one who has to begin community bonding and trust building (even if its smaller scale like with friends or co-workers). I pray you will be encouraged and empowered to bring your focus back towards what matters most in life, relationships, and to dream up creative ways of bringing life, laughter, and pure play into the spaces around you.
May your cup overflow with hope, all the days of your life.