a lesson in kindness

Josh, Asher, and I live in a second-floor apartment. We have downstairs neighbors and upstairs neighbors. Our apartment is like any other cheap apartment: it's old, it creaks, and it sometimes grows mold. Because we have a baby (and you know, because we pay to live here) we walk around a bit, even in the middle of the night. Our downstairs neighbors took issue with that and started pounding on their ceiling in a rude, albeit clear, communication to shut up.

When this first started I did not handle it well. In fact, I was quite put out about it. Josh first approached them and explained that we had a six-month-old baby and that the baby was going through a rough sleeping period. "So if you could not pound on your ceiling at midnight, we'd really appreciate it. Thanks."

After that encounter, I started hearing blaring, pounding music from downstairs. So I asked them about it. I learned that she was pregnant and couldn't sleep when she could hear me walking around. So she turned on the radio full blast. Let me put it to the record that I do not gallop, galumph, or otherwise pound around my apartment. If I did, sure, maybe be a little upset about it. But really, I just live here.

A few weeks went by, and in the late afternoon I heard them pound on their ceiling again, for what I can only imagine was Asher's light floor kicking (which might be mildly irritating, but certainly not ceiling-pounding worthy). I went down to apologize, because I hate having people mad at me. They had just had their baby, and so I guess I could kind of understand how some minor floor kicking wouldn't be appreciated.

A week or so later, Asher woke for up the day around 6:30 or 7:00. (He's an early riser.) By this point both Josh and I are very cautious about our walking and try very hard to tread lightly, especially when the hours are late or early. Josh was still sleeping; the apartment was dark and quiet. Just as I wrapped up Asher's morning nursing, I heard a few taps on our front door.

In a dark apartment, barely clothed in loose pajamas, with babe in arms, I answered. The husband from downstairs was at our door, asking me if I could possibly be quieter, because they had just gotten their baby to sleep. I hardly knew what to say. My face may have conveyed some incredulity, because I was doing my best (and had been doing my best for some time). I told him that I didn't know what else I could do to be quieter, and I recommended that he get a white noise machine for the baby's room. I told him that we have one and love it.

The rest of the day I was in a high state of anger and frustration. What do they want from me? I'm doing the best I can! I want a house! Haven't they lived in an apartment before? Good hell! Josh calmly and reasonably pointed out that I needed to figure something out, because staying mad wasn't going to cut it.

I wrestled with myself and my pride. I prayed and vented and tiptoed around, trying to find a solution. And my thoughts kept returning to kindness. You never regret being kind to someone, and maybe being kind to those sensitive neighbors would make it harder for us to hate each other. I went to Target that morning and bought them their own white noise machine. I figured they wouldn't go out and get one, especially with a brand new baby in tow. So I bought it for them. I tied a blue bow around it, wrote a short note in a card, and knocked on their door.

The dad answered, fussy newborn nuzzled in the crook of his arm. My heart softened as I remembered those overwhelming days of brand-new parenthood. I smiled, a smile that I found was genuine, and handed over my olive branch.

We've seen them a few times since then, and I have found that it really is harder to hate them now that I've been kind. As much as it pains me to admit, I needed them. I needed this opportunity to choose kindness instead of anger. I needed to remember that kindness never begets regret, but rather engenders a soft and empathetic heart.

This post is dedicated to my grandma who passed away three years ago today. In this situation, I found myself asking, What would Grandma do? She would know exactly how to respond to these neighbors. I've been missing her an extra measure these past few weeks, and this experience brought me closer to her and made me remember that even though I can't call her on the phone, she's still close by and aware of me and my life.


paws said...

I'm so glad I didn't live in an apartment with a baby! They must be seriously sensitive, and I don't blame you for being upset. I wonder what it sounds like down there? Of course, you have neighbors above you, so you should know, right?

I hope your gift helps them get some sleep.
Sounds like they need it!

Jill said...

How stressful, frustrating, maddening and humbling!

Natalie Bergin said...

You are a much better person than I am.

Denise Wood said...

You're so right about this being what Grandma would do. And my new favorite word is galumph.

Ashley said...

This story touched my heart. Thank you for sharing it.

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