Standing in my kitchen, I can hear my neighbor in hers. She's talking about her day, using the microwave, grinding her coffee.
In my bathroom, I can hear my upstairs neighbor plunging his toilet, starting his shower.
Not all small living is this intimate with neighbors, but for me, it often seems a natural extension.
I stand in the open door while the kids retrieve the mail from the box across the hall. The hallway door opens and other neighbors pass between us, greeting us and naturally glancing past me, seeing most of our house.
I'm not ashamed, I tell myself, hoping to one day make that true. I'm not the best housekeeper in the world, plus small children add their own special housekeeping style. But there is little I can do to hide it from my neighbor, since the routine of daily living opens up my life for them to see inside.
It is only obvious with what I can hear of my neighbors, they are not just limited to what they can see of me. One of our neighbors once commented on the great bedtime book we read the night before.
And that, gentle readers, encourages me to live small.
There may be very little that I can do about the sound of deteriorating children at bedtime or croupy crying before dawn, but what about the sound of my deteriorating patience or croupy attitude?
It is scary vulnerable to have so little boundary between us and them. We live off of what is perhaps the busiest hallway in our complex and neighbors or strangers are constantly coming and going. I'm not ever sure what can be seen or heard by passersby. It would be so much more comfortable to live in a turtle-shell hermitage.
But for hospitality.
|The largest crowd we've ever had in our house. What you can't see is how much of our furniture we had to move out to the porch.|
I've heard hospitality defined as welcoming someone into your daily life. We can fit no more than a handful of people within our four walls for a meal. We can host just one overnight guest at a time (and that is only if they don't mind sleeping sitting up or sharing the floor with how ever many children climb out of bed that night). But there is a certain hospitality borne out of sharing a laundry room, of knowing there are people eavesdropping on your children's bedtime routine, of preparing for the inevitable moments of the day when our door will be open and it will be as if we were entertaining strangers.
So I keep winnowing. I keep tossing the clutter, curbing my tongue, considering the thin walls and wide open door. I am not ashamed, I tell myself, hoping one day to make it true.