For the last seven years, my wife Caryn and I have lived in an apartment on the edge of Kerrisdale.
We’ve got a great little place that we enjoy being in and that has really felt like a home for us. It’s a quiet area, safe and beautiful, yet we’ve struggled living there. There are over 100 units in our building but we hardly ever see our neighbors.
Besides the brief head nod across the parkade, the rare chit chat in a shared elevator experience, or the extremely infrequent conversation while passing through the hallway, we essentially live without any sense of the people around us.
The more I complained about the lack of friendliness in apartment buildings, the more I heard others share about their similar experiences. It seemed there that was an inevitable isolation in living in stacked housing.
While the folks I chatted with were keen to build connections with their neighbors, everyone is busy and establishing relationships can be time consuming and awkward.
Wanting to figure out a place to start, Caryn and I thought we’d throw an open house of sorts and have a casual drop-in soup night where we could meet our neighbors. We made up invitation cards and dropped them off at the six apartments closest to ours.
When the night of the open house came around I remember feeling nervous. I tried bracing myself for the fact that though we had prepped soup for 15 people, we could easily end up with 0 mouths to feed…and even if people did come, it would certainly be an awkward evening of stilted conversations.
We propped open our apartment door and waited.
30 minutes into the scheduled start no one had shown up. We thought about calling it a night and putting on a movie, but just then a neighbor shyly knocked on the door. His two boys popped their heads into our place, and before long we were all sharing bowls of soup. A few minutes later, three more people came in and another couple brought over a dessert.
It wasn’t a night of instant chemistry, but it was fine. It was simple and at least got us all introduced. Out of that evening we’ve developed a tradition of sharing Valentine’s Day with some neighbors, I’ve become text buddies with a guy living next to us, we got to know a friendly dog, some marriages have dissolved and others have reunited, and our rare moments of passing each other are marked with more knowing and connected smiles and nods.
We have a long way to go to sharing life together in meaningful ways with our neighbors, but we’ve started sharing something – and that’s made our home feel a lot more like home.
Dan Matheson is Site Pastor at Tenth Kitsilano. Dan and his wife Caryn deeply delight in film, food, and music and enjoy sharing God's good hospitality. The two recently became parents to their beautiful daughter, Annie.