By Debbie Dale – Originally Published – DEL Condominium Life – Summer Issue, 2008

Condominium communities afford evolvement opportunities yet to be realized by many of us life travellers. We all agree on this. Right?

While racing along the fast track to ‘happiness, fulfillment and success,’ do we cruise past fast track paths? I mean, really, what’s it all about?? OK, please, someone, anyone, define happiness, fulfillment and success. The mere concept seems to be evaporating from the horizon as we scurry to and fro.

As an optimist, I am most comfortable envisioning positive, life-enhancing ‘condominium community pods.’ I consciously decline the realization that we live in stacked and packed, concrete and steel, towers without the opportunity to better ourselves and the world around us due to our modern living environments. I am the benefactor of many years of condominium world employment. I have been privileged in many ways. How many of us can say, at the end of every workday, that we have made a difference in someone’s life?

I carefully gather and have gathered, tales shared by many residents, trades, co-workers and others.

I recently slowed down, posed the same questions to many condominium dwellers and fathered some insightful information. Well, insightful to me!

The questions were simple, required minimal brain activity, little time and were part of casual conversations carried on in a very busy management office.

I did not realize as I embarked on this info quest what value there may, or may not, be in asking for the info let alone what to do with ‘it’ once I gathered ‘it’. I call this going with the flow and it works for me, so far. The three questions follow:

1.) Do you know your neighbour?

2.) How many people do you know in your building?

3.) Do you talk to people in your elevators, at the pool, in the lobby or elsewhere after you come home if you do not know them?

I mean, REALLY, who honestly knows who lives upstairs, downstairs, across the hall or even next door? Do we know? Should we know? Do we care? Should we care? What difference is there? What differences might there be? Answers to these easily overlooked questions vary with shades ranging from black to white, and all the way back through a seemingly eternal grey fog of ‘busy-ness’ and preponderances.

Pause on this vein of thought, for a few minutes, and give your mind a rest as you allow the story below to unfold, moment by moment.

One winter day, I arrived at the management office and found a resident busily reading the bulletin board notices.

The next day, I arrived at the exact same scenery. The same resident. The same bulletin board notices. The same time of day.

Day three arrived and I suspected I was missing something but carried on nevertheless. Far too busy to do more than pause and keep moving.

Day four was the day upon which my curiosity won out. I engaged the ‘busy’ resident in casual conversation while scanning the bulletin board for the item(s) of such intent scrutiny. I found no such item(s). I did, however, learn much during many ‘on the fly’ conversations over the next few months.&

I learned of lost loves, cherished sisters, namesake grandchildren seldom seen, unequivocal faith, decades of happy volunteerism, a longing for a simple garden stroll just yards from that very high rise that had become impossible due to fear and more.

My own soul-searching questions took flight. Family events with some family members missing. What had I done to change that? Volunteerism? Would I live long enough to retire and THEN volunteer? How could I ensure my grandchildren visit? Faith … there is a whole other subject! Becoming fragile to the point that entering into a garden fifty feet from a door may become impossible due to fear. Could this happen to me? Really? In the midst of hundreds of neighbours in one building who enter the gardens daily, how can this happen?

I decided to drop off a few tulips in a vase one morning at this resident’s suite entryway. Nothing fancy. No card. Just a little something by sheer impulse. Just a small token to say thanks for all I have learned through chatting.

One day later, I arrived to find a thank you card on my desk from that very resident. I phoned to ask how on earth the resident knew I had left the flowers. The reply caught me quite by surprise, as I learned I was the only person she had spoken to in many days! How is this possible?

Let’s return to where we were before my bulletin board story and tie all of this information together, shall we?

My three questions and answers as follows:

1.) Do you know your neighbour? 90% said no.

2.) How many people do you know in your building? 80% said zero to two.

3.) Do you talk to people in your elevators, at the pool, in the lobby or elsewhere after you come home if you do not know them? 80% said no.

It is interesting to note that only those approximately 70 years of age or older were off the grid with their responses. That is to say, not with the majority. Actually, by leaps and bounds they were not in sync with the majority. Mmmmm …

In our savvy, fast-paced, seemingly communicate lifestyle, it is apparently possible to omit face-to-face communication. I quickly understood that the internet, telephone, TV and radio had failed to provide personal and meaningful conversation, and interaction, from one human being to another.

Emerging from a dissipating grey fog grew a new awareness and, hopefully, a better here and now attitude has a chance to shine through. I call these moments in my life the “AHA” or “Lights on!” events. The moment when I just knew I have missed something I should not have. ‘Happiness, fulfillment and success’ have prices. Interesting.

You and I can choose to flip the page and choose to remain as we are. Considering the responses to the three questions, we can comfortably know we are pretty ‘normal’. However, what might happen if we all decided to pause, ponder and propel ourselves into a ‘new’ communication mode?

On this vein of thought, I will toss the following your way. If it fits, keep it. If not, simply toss it; but, toss it with a clear awareness of what is happening all around YOU.

Here we go, together, into creating positive, life-enhancing ‘condominium community pods’. A community network offers unique opportunities for all.

Extend a warm welcome to those joining you on the elevator.

See your fellow travellers with a refreshed attitude.

Listen attentively for reciprocal greetings.

Engage your neighbour in open and unbridled conversation.

Share your best self as if meeting new friends. Best foot forward!

Care. Just simple care. The doorway swings both ways. AHA!!

Pause. Hold a door open.

Relax. Crack a smile.

Offer to push an elevator button or carry a bag of groceries.

YES, YOU CAN!!

Join the Social Committee within your community. Better yet, start a Social Committee if one does not exist. Get involved.

You just never know what new ideas and goals may evolve for YOU by simply asking, and meaning, ‘Hello. I live on the 17th. How is your world today?’

This article is dedicated to Syd Ticker, Social Committee Chair, Skyview-on-Yonge, as a testimonial to his spectacular dedication, perseverance and compassion in the performance of his volunteer roles. Thanks, Syd!

… With thanks to Syd and the bulletin board lady.&

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