When I first moved to Seattle I lived in a not so nice neighborhood. In fact the entire time spare a year was in what people often would refer to as ghetto. My first apartment was cheap, dank and small. I put myself, two preteens, a big dog, two cats and a rat along with myself and my then boyfriend into a one bedroom apartment for a year and a half. It was so bad that the landlord and I would walk every morning and run crack whores out of the stairwells so my kids could leave without being offered whatever or asked for whatever.
As the first summer neared, I had a table that I had brought up and placed in the community yard. I would sit there in the evening drinking beer or on the weekend mornings sipping coffee. I enjoy being outside, and when you are cramped into a space like we were, outside is heaven. The table had an umbrella which I would use when it was rainy. I noticed one evening that there was a group of hispanic men sitting at the table when I arrived home from work. I had never met them officially. They lived in an apartment below me. I stood on the porch that night overlooking the yard with my beer. One of the men stood up and motioned for me to join them and have his seat. He ran and fetched a new chair for himself. They apologized for utilizing my table. In the best way I could communicate, I told them that it was a community yard. Anything left in the yard was for all that lived there.
I was always offered a beer when they were in the yard, I was even offered some bbq roasted pig, but try explaining you are a vegetarian to a culture that revolves around meat. I took the pig with grace and slipped it to my dog and cats. They were happy, and my neighbors were satisfied that we had formed a community of sorts. I have long since moved but I left that table there for future residents. It bridged a huge cultural gap for us, I wanted to ensure that others would enjoy it as well. I can still see that table in the yard down the street from my current location.
Strange how something as simple as putting a table out can invite community and friendships. Those men would play cards and dice into the wee hours of the night that summer. I look for that sense of community in every living situation I find myself in. If you have a communal space in your living quarters and do not interact with your neighbors, try putting a table out or a couple of patio chairs. Leave yourself to be open to whomever drops in. Sometimes just the suggestion of community is all it takes to build a strong foundation for future community events.
In my current apartment complex there is a a communal deck. I have overtaken it with my gardening boxes, but there are a couple of small bbq’s on it, one of which is mine, and a small table and a few folding chairs. I love having coffee out there and wish to spend more time with others in the apartment. I have seen a few out there but not often. Hopefully as summer starts blazing people will want to get outside to escape the heat of the interiors of their living spaces.