In June of this year, I signed a lease on my first apartment. I have always been someone who enjoyed being alone sometimes, so the idea of having my own space was exciting. I could decorate just as I desired, I could have as much or as little clutter as I liked. I anticipated the independence, the freedom and the solitude. I was worried about one thing though: I was afraid I might get lonesome. I enjoy doing things with friends, but I have never been the world’s most social individual. I was a little worried that left to my own devices I might turn into a hermit.
Thankfully, I serve a God who knows exactly who I am. He knows that I still lack patience at times. He knows that it might be healthy for me to be a little more social than I am on my own. He knows that I am happiest when I have someone to watch out for and take care of.
Moving day came around, and I excitedly jumped out of the moving van holding my belongings, and used my shiny new key to unlock the front door. Up the stairs I went, holding the first armload of things to bring into my new home. My mom and one of my best friends were helping me, and they also gathered armloads of boxes. We unlocked my apartment door, and started piling things in various rooms. No sooner could we get started than a blonde girl who looked about my age popped her head out of the door across from mine and said “Hi, I live in the apartment across the hall! It’s so nice to meet you. Are you the new neighbor? I can’t wait to get to know you. I hope we will be best friends. Do you need any help? I haven’t been doing much today, and I would be glad to help you unload your stuff. Do you like movies? What is your favorite movie? Do you like computer games? I just cannot wait to get to know you. The last neighbor in that apartment wasn’t too friendly……but I am sure you will be. You seem nice already……….” She kept up the cheerful chatter as she traipsed down the stairs behinds us, and back up again carrying household items. I have never been one to turn down offered help in a move, so I just thanked her, and kept supplying boxes to her waiting arms. I wondered when she would run out of things to say and to ask me, but it never happened.
And so started a friendship that would try my patience often, remind me what is important in life, and ultimately bless me richly. A few days after I moved in, she told me that she has Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a form of Autism. She was relieved when I told her that I understood what it was, because she tires of trying to explain it to people. She told me she didn’t have many friends, and that she hoped we could spend time together. I liked the idea of making friends with my neighbor, and she seemed nice, so I agreed.
I am never lonely here. Sometimes I wish I could be just a little lonely, but I am ultimately glad that I am not. Almost without fail, when I get home from my job, she bursts out her door as I am unlocking mine to say hi and chat with me, and ask if I want to watch a movie with her. Sometimes when I have a difficult day and I am tired, I wish I could just sneak in my door silently without talking to anyone. I even oiled my door hinges so they are quiet. But our stairs creak loudly, and I am always discovered. Sometimes I face my door for just a moment when she pops out until I can find a smile, and then I turn to talk to her. This neighbor, who drives me bonkers on occasion, has blessed me.
Right across the hall, there is someone who is happy to have my company almost any time. There is someone I can share meals with, and help, and laugh with. She reminds me that I have something to give to the world. She reminds me that it is ok to ask for help. She isn’t afraid to talk to anyone. I am learning from that example.
Sometimes she comes to church with me, and one week she convinced me to go to the Monday night youth gathering also. I agreed reluctantly. I feel out of place in large groups of people my own age, and I didn’t know anyone who would be there. Monday came, and I hoped she might forget. She didn’t. We showed up a few minutes early, and I scoped out a seat and plunked into it, playing on my iPhone, and resisting the urge to hide under a chair somewhere. I would have been happy to shake the hand of anyone who approached me and introduce myself, but no one did. (presumably because of the giant wall that I put up that says on it “do not talk to me, I am aloof.” The aloof bit is not true. I am actually just scared. Having a wall that read “please come talk to me, I am friendly, but shy and scared.” Would be far more helpful, but I am not sure how to change it as of now.)
My neighbor had no such fears. She boldly went up to person after person, sticking out her hand to greet them, tapping them on the shoulder to get their attention first if necessary. She smiled genuinely and told them it was her first week there, and she was so happy to meet them all. Not one person looked offended at her introduction. They all smiled at her and introduced themselves. I sat there, feeling out of place and thinking “why is this so hard for me? She is having a ball, and all I can do is wonder why there are no other women in this room who are over 5’ 4’’ and why every single person here is dressed like a hipster.” For those of you who don’t know me, I am almost 6 feet tall. I grew up in the country, and never completely dropped the dress code. I am most comfortable in jeans, a hoody and my keens. My glasses are small, my hair light brown and wavy, and my makeup is neutral. I do not look like a hipster. I look like a cleaned up country girl. It’s what I am, and I am not ashamed of that. In groups like we were in though, I sure do feel out of place.
I learned something from her lack of inhibition that night. I learned that if you introduce yourself in a friendly manner, most people will respond in like. I am still working on summoning the nerve to employ this knowledge, but I am one step closer. This is just one of the many things she has taught me. I am grateful for all of them though.
Do you have someone like this in your life? Somebody who challenges your patience and forces you to be a better person and is a blessing to you in an unlikely way? Remember to be grateful. You are that person to someone else, and so am I. We all need someone to love us and accept us, and teach us and learn from us. That’s what friends are for. I am thankful for the built in friend that came with my new apartment. I remind myself of that every day when that door pops open and I am trying to summon my smile to greet her. She is my unlikely blessing.