Recently writing about our years (Summer 2008-Summer 2012) in Hamilton, we reminisce about the good times we had with our community and life living in an urban centre. Two of these years as a couple, both working outside the home and two of these years with a lively pair of kiddos, one of those years neither of us working outside the home and the other year both of us working outside the home.
When we wanted to purchase a home, we wanted a place where we could eventually have a family, but have friends and guests in our home, be hospitable, have ‘open doors’, offer a place for those who didn’t have one. We wanted to be part of a community that had that same idea as us, but maybe not the space… We wanted to be able to offer that. With our small downpayment, we bought a row home with three bedrooms, two of those bedrooms had beds and were always ready to be slept in – always ready for whoever needed to sleep in them.
Pre-children, this started out mostly as a place for youth to come to hang out. There’d be evenings and weekends where the house would be filled with youth and therefore my cupboards would be bare and fridge would be empty. We were used to people in our home all the time, dropping in, coming to play games, helping us rip out the deck, you know – the regular stuff.
When our children joined our family it helped us bridge the gap into our community a bit more. When we basically walked everywhere and lived with a child strapped to our front or back or on our shoulders or in a stroller…. With us all the sudden having two children, it made for a quick conversation starter and a great opportunity for us to be advocates for adoption. At the beginning, this was not a time that we had a lot of people in our home, our home was growing into something new, a home for a baby and a two year old. Our house felt very full in a different way as our family was being formed.
Fast forward a few months where we began attending a new church and soon after that we were serving in our church community hosting a “living room” weekly where we gathered to eat, talk, pray and live together. This was the opportunity for our home to be the hospitable place we once imagined it would be. It became a natural way of life these Tuesday evenings that it flowed into other days of the week: helping out with the kids, doing crafts, having a drink, borrowing each others tools, working together on a project, a few people digging through their fridges and cupboards in attempt to throw a meal together just, celebrating events – actually living life together. Friendship. Relationship. Community.
So why am I writing this post? Why am I explaining all of this? Well, we are experiencing a little bit of a difference in our new suburban home. And we are having to try and establish what suburban hospitality looks like. We are used to living right downtown where everyone lives very close to one another, works close to one another, serves close to one another and this style of living worked. That’s not the way suburbia works. We have met very few people who live in our neighbourhood, even though we have tried. And the people we have met have met in the neighbourhood is mostly acquaintances who won’t get passed talked about the weather. The rest of the people we have got to know is mostly through our new church but don’t live near us and most of them have children. When other people have children, they have schedules and routines to stick to. We are also finding that because of the middle class area we are living in, everyone is so self sufficient. People don’t seem to need each other in practical ways – everybody actually has everything they need. And many just don’t crave community the way that Jon and I do. Even being an introvert, I still want connection with others.
We came to Mississauga because we needed our family and to be close to Jon’s work. We are committed to being active in our community, but it’s hard when you aren’t part of one. It’s hard to get to know the people around you, its hard to make brand new relationships. It’s hard to start from scratch.
How do I have a house with open doors when everyone is satisfied to stay closed in their own homes?
How do we meet people around us when many people won’t say much more than hello or just smile?
How can I offer my urban hospitality in my suburban neighbourhood?
Where do I find those likeminded people who want to live life with others?
So, how do we meet other people who need community?