When we first moved into our new apartment, we were a little nervous. We didn’t think we would necessarily fit in. See, most of our neighbors are Indian. Many are spending their first six months here in the United States as my neighbors. And, though we aren’t bothered by diversity, we hadn’t ever lived in a place where we were immersed in it. And so we were a little nervous.
We shouldn’t have been.
Every day it amazes me how friendly my neighbors are. Those of us who are home at this time of day have little kids, too small for school. Usually too young for preschool. And, so, out on walks with our children we meet, we trade names, that we all promptly forget because they are just a little too different from the names we’re familiar with, and we begin the process of getting to know each other.
It’s interesting to me, the bravery of my neighbors, because I’m not sure I could do it. I’m not sure that I could pack up my small child, entrust all of my belongings to a moving company, and fly across the ocean to live in a country where I was not native. The culture shock must be daunting, must be almost crushing sometimes. And also the joyful curiosity. And the determination that it must take to each day keep reaching out in a country where reaching out to your neighbors has become the exception rather than the rule.
So, when we walk and we come near our home, I invite them in and offer water, or coffee, or tea. I tell my neighbors to knock on my door any time and we’ll go for a walk or have a cup of coffee. I let them know that I’m here too, and honestly I’m a little out of my depth too, and that I’m far from my family too, and that I understand that they are too. (Though I know that it’s vastly harder for them.) We learn about each other and talk and get to know each other. And they’re shy, and they’re outgoing, and they have degrees in Chemistry, and Physics, and Computers, and Math, and they’re stay at home moms. And they worry over their kids and they want to see them play and bond and connect with those around them.We’re slowly making friends and connecting. And even though the conversation sometimes falters (Primarily because while my neighbors English is good, my Hindi is non-existent.), we all carry on sometimes letting a topic lapse and sometimes muddling our way through with gestures and errors.
The best part though is our children. Our smart, curious, unstoppable children. They play together. They chase and giggle and teach and learn and somehow never need to share a common language to do it.
And we mommies learn from them. We share a smile. We share a little laughter. We talk about food and schedules and schools. And slowly, but surely, we become neighbors. We become friends. We find a way past our differences to all the things that are just human and it’s wonderful. And, though it’s silly, I can’t help but think that Mr. Rogers would be proud of all of us.