Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Community Spirit, Please Come Back!

For those of you that live in apartments or dorms, you will know how utterly annoying it is to have the fire alarm go off. Especially when there's no fire.

The first happened 2 weeks ago and everyone took it rather well. False alarm, ok, move on. And then the next week, the alarm went off again three more times. Two of which were back to back on Saturday and Sunday morning.

Our building managers showed up to only one of these alarms, and the firemen showed up to 3 of them. Each time, it was because of a faulty fire sensor. That's as much as we got told.. and it was because someone approached the firemen to ask. 

I try and see a "glass-half-full" perspective as many things possible, and despite how utterly ridiculous and unnecessary those false alarms were, some good came out of having the whole building gather downstairs so many times over the past weeks.

We got to see people we never knew existed!!

I was so excited to see all the idiots that rudely clog up our visitors' parking (or my designated parking spot) with their cars because they have too many, the ones that don't know how to recycle and dump bag of food in the recycling bin, those that vandalized our elevator panel with scratches and those that pretend not to see you even though you're smack bang in their path. 

The problem was, I didn't know who was who. I just knew that all these rude people were in the mix. On the other hand, I got to meet some really nice people from different floors and we chatted longer and longer with each false fire alarm raised! And that's when we got to talking about the lack of community spirit around here. 

On my floor,I've got a particular neighbor (well, a family actually with 3 generations living in the apartment) that is such an embarrassment to humankind. They shirk common civilities by leaving their garbage on the garbage room floor and they pretend nobody's home when they clearly saw me being locked out of my apartment not five minutes before I knocked on their door, wanting to ask for help. (They're better now, after a collective note was written. To be fair, I don't think they speak English and they shy away because of that. But still!! They could at least nod, or make  eye contact, or smile a bit! It's not that hard be polite for goodness sakes!)

What are these apartment cubicles doing to people? What came first... the death of community spirit or the construction of concrete human cages?

How it's sad that people seem so self-absorbed and uncaring, or un-seeing. There's no way you'd be yelling at some strange kid to stop playing so close to the street nowadays, or bend to pick up some stray piece of trash that's ended up at the border of your neighbor's yard. You'll likely get sued or something in this current day and age! The language barrier doesn't help either, and I've always wondered how on earth someone can survive for decades in an English-speaking country not knowing any English! There are plenty of these mythical people around and it's quite sad that they don't get out much.

With all this in mind, and some inspiring words from my Hubbs, I went to work to scribble down some ideas before they dissipated into thin air. Why didn't I think of this sooner and why haven't I done it already?! I was quite excited and a few coherent doodles started to emerge...

Welcome to the neighborbood sketch images

It was a lot harder trying to figure the best wording. I didn't want them to offer too much information, especially personal information, but I needed some form of contact details and name so everyone can actually get to know each other. There are a lot of non-English speaking residents in our building too, so I just had to hope that they have someone to translate the cards for them. The alternative was just not possible.. to have translated cards custom made because I don't even know who speaks what language in what apartment! So after lots of hours of squinting at pixels, the Welcome to the Neighborhood cards were born! 
Welcome neighbor birdie card image

The process started to become a bit addictive after the first one was done and dusted, and two more designs were concocted the rest of that evening :) 

I was spurred on by memories of lovely neighbors, ones that I never would have met if my parents hadn't shown some initiative to go introduce themselves as the new neighbors whenever we moved. Ours in California always included us as another of their family. They were the ones that came knocking on our door in the middle of the night to check that we were ok after the huge SoCal earthquake a while back. We helped and supported each other and our whole street kept an old tradition of putting up themed Christmas decorations every year. Our whole block was quite a popular after-dinner destination for families to view Christmas lights. Streets were magically transformed to special names used only in December - Candy Cane Lane.. Bell Avenue..

I miss that warmth and camaderie :(

Torn apart Welcome neighbor card imagePerforated Welcome neighbor card image
We will be counting all the mailboxes in our building tomorrow and printing out enough cards for everyone as our contribution to our community spirit. It will be interesting to see how many people automatically chuck their card into the trash, and how many return their section to us! How exciting!

Have you taken a moment to foster some community spirit this month?

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