Two months ago, I moved into my first house.
It's a fixer-upper in an established urban neighbourhood full of older Italians and Portuguese and a younger multicultural crowd. There's an elderly gentleman across the street who sits on his porch of a morning and always wishes me "Buon giorno!"
Our next-door neighbours, an elderly Italian couple, have taken my significant other and me under their wing. She baked biscotti to welcome us into our home. When they found out we wanted to start a garden but were clearly overwhelmed with the basics of settling in, they planted tomatoes and basil for us in our backyard. Not only that, they've been watering the plants all summer, and we're now eating the fruits of their labour. (I should mention that the fence between our properties is low – to water, they only need to reach over.)
The social mover and shaker of the neighbourhood, a young father, invited us to a block barbecue, where we met the rest of the younger families. Due to differing schedules, we didn't see him again until just recently. Yesterday evening, coming back from a gelato outing (another benefit of living in an Italian neighbourhood), we ran into him again. Turns out he's a carpenter and knows all the tradespeople one could need. Then he offered to build furniture for us. (!!!)
I'm thrilled – and not just about the potential new furniture. If our early experiences are any indication, we're going to love living here.
Yet I'm also conscious that so far, we've been recipients, not givers. As former apartment-dwellers and also introverts, we have a habit of keeping to ourselves, turning inwards. Suddenly I'm finding that I don't like that habit anymore. Sure, we're young and inexperienced, but we have talents and resources that could be shared.
Right now, we're paddling as fast as we can; we don't have time or energy to spare. But I'm hoping that in the near future, when our circumstances change (and yes, there is an end date in sight), we'll be able to give back and participate more in the community.
After all, it takes a village to make a village.