A View From The Mesa: New life skills come from community

One night last week when I arrived home there was no parking.

Although a common occurrence in our neighborhood, it was especially frustrating because the space between my roommate's car and my neighbor's was almost big enough for my car, but not quite. If either had just been a foot or two forward it would have fit.

But it didn't, and it was too late to wake people up to play musical cars, like we often do. So I did what any reasonable person would do late at night with nowhere to park: I parked my car straight into the space instead of parallel. We have a little bit of a driveway there so it worked without sticking out into the street.

Just so you get the picture, we have two cars parked parallel with the curb like normal and in between them a gray Saturn Vue parked perpendicular to the other two cars. Somehow instead of feeling embarrassed or increasingly frustrated, a deep sense of satisfaction came over me. I felt as if I had figured something out. I felt like I belonged more in my neighborhood.

My neighbors are masters at figuring things out. They are survivors who can get by with what they have. They make dinner with what food they have. They make beautiful decorations out of paper and fashionable purses by crocheting plastic grocery bags.

My neighbors taught me how to divert flies with a bag of water and use an onion to clean a barbecue. Their creativity and resourcefulness teaches me a lot and has me asking questions about what I really need.

Did I really need two more feet that night? Apparently not.

As I ask questions about what I need and what should be mine, more opportunities for community come up.

I don't have an ice maker, so when I have parties my neighbor fills a bowl of ice for me. She recently saved our chocolate chip cookies with the provision of two eggs.

This is the same family we share a barbecue with. This has led to more meals together and rolling it back and forth between the yards isn't really a hassle at all.

Sharing one washing machine in the building is a hassle but even that becomes a way for us to bless one another. I regularly go to pull my clothes out of the dryer only to find them folded neatly on top with my neighbor's load in the dryer. She didn't have to fold my clothes and yet she chooses to bless instead of resent me in our shared space.

And again I wonder what makes me think I need my own washing machine?

The next morning, I headed out front to move my car. As I stepped out bleary eyed in my pink robe I found my next-door neighbor laughing, taking a picture of my parking job.

"Well, you really fit in now," he said, affirming my satisfaction with my resourcefulness.

We high-fived and went about the almost daily ritual of moving cars around to get the right ones out at the right time. He thanked me for coming out to move before he had to ask. I wished him a good day and once again gave thanks to God for my community.

CRISSY BROOKS is co-founder and executive director of Mika Community Development Corp., a faith-based nonprofit in Costa Mesa, where she lives.

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