Not long after I moved into Joe’s triple decker in Somerville- what I called Casa 69 because I wanted so badly to speak Spanish, I got to know my neighbors in the other 5 apartments, only to find out they didn’t know each other. Even though I was the newest to the building, and others had lived there for years on end, no one had gotten to know the people living 6 feet away from them. Literally! And I couldn’t believe it!
Our sense of community is intrinsically different in America than it is in India- our space bubbles are smaller in India, somehow everyone shares a sense of belonging that is easily extended…Riding a train for 3 hours can have you end up exchanging food over discussions on politics and religion, holding people’s children…there’s an easy familiarity in ways that most Americans I know may be terrified by!
Not knowing your next door neighbors is like a warped version of an impossible reality for most Indians!
I got to confront this difference in many forms as an international student and again and again as a young professional moving around the country alone. So back to Casa 69- I saw so many fun people stacked above each other and suspected they’d enjoy meeting each other!
In fact, I was craving community- like many of us are now! I wanted the kind where you just knock on each other’s door to have a chat, to borrow some milk, to share the craziness of the snowstorm (or the pandemic) outside…So I decided to create it.
Next day, I made these (to me hilarious and awesome) fliers from a deck of post-its my friend Loren had gifted me. For a second I worried they might seem preposterous to a serious Church-goer, but if they were offended, we weren’t going to get along any way! So I posed it as a divine duty- I mean, Jesus says know thy neighbor, right?! I slipped a flyer under each person’s door.
There was a buzz in the building, planning as we crossed paths in the hallways for days, I bought some cupcakes, some wine, and when the day came, so did every person in the building.
Crammed into my tiny living room over a circle of food and wine, we exchanged stories, happy to discover unexpected camaraderie over the hilarity of our rental configurations and the eccentricities of our landlord.
We roared in laughter as we shared our reactions to him blocking out our bathroom windows, all at once, for no reason…We laughed as we realized the Americans were outnumbered by international folks- we had an Irishman, a German, two Mexicans, and of course, me, the resident Indian!
As time went by, the distance shortened.
We knocked on each other’s doors, we played tennis, made art, went on adventures..we even combined apartments and hosted Casa 69 parties (you may have been to one), we had late night existential discussions over music on our porches…We cried and laughed together through life’s growing pains. Some beastly nor’easter nights when Boston was covered with 6′ of snow, I put a giant lasagna bake in the oven n we’d all snuggle into my living room to play games n voluntarily be locked in together!
We became friends. So much love, so much community, just waiting to be put together…oh and most of us aren’t connected on facebook :)
2020 has made it clearer than ever that community is a deep human need! Connection is what we all want underneath all our wants- connection to ourselves, to each other, to something bigger than us.
We all want to belong to something, know that those around us stand with us, that we are part of a grand adventure together- it’s more fun to share the ride!
New partners, new jobs, new horizons came and we all left that building eventually but I still talk to each of them, though less often. It was the sweetest period of my Boston life and I’ve drawn on this experience often to bring people together, and more importantly, bring cool people to me!
They say strangers are just friends waiting to be discovered. I couldn’t agree more!
How are you building community through the pandemic? It’s the balm we all need and in these times we need to actively create and nurture it. I’d love to hear your adventures in turning friends into strangers.
If you’re interested in sharing this kind of fun community, with a purpose to support your deepest intentions- join us in Murmurations! A transformational community starting Jan 28, shepherded by yours truly.
A group of some really cool folks is coming and I’d love to have you too!
Your new friends might just be waiting to be discovered.