So yesterday Joanne and I decided to live large and go through an open house in a nearby, newly constructed, “luxury” condominium complex. Months or strolling by the continued construction process led to a curiosity about what existed inside the promised “rooms with a view”. Not wanting to destroy the illusion that we could actually hope to afford residence in such a dwelling, we chose to walk rather than arrive in our 1989 Honda. Knowing that appearance is everything, we strolled confidently into the foyer, complete with gas fireplace and realtors, and proceeded directly to the elevators, nonchalantly grabbing a listing on our way through, looking as though we’d been through this formality numerous times. We had to concentrate on not giving away expressions that would in any way signal that we were impressed or, worse yet, overwhelmed. We began our journey at the top of course. It was top floor and the top priced unit at slightly less than a million dollars.
You get quite a bit for a million dollars, although not as much as I’d expected. You get a view, of course, of the water and the mountains, from many different vantage points. You get gas fireplaces with built in plasma screens mounted directly over them in both the living room and the master bedroom. You get a toilet for each of you practically. You can actually, if you work it right, have a toilet that you never ever have to share with the backsides of your guests. It’s not that I mind, but some might, especially the million dollar condo types. You get a walk in closet that is the size of our current master bedroom. You also get digitally controlled climate in each and every room. It would be quite a life I would imagine. A bit of reality crept in and we decided to go to a slightly lower floor with a slightly lower lifestyle. A one bedroom with one bathroom was next on our itinerary, not because we could fit there, but because that was the only one within our price range and we wanted to see how our type would live within the walls of this community. It wasn’t very impressive. Actually it looked like the place was an afterthought. It was as if they had completed all of the real units and had this space left over without any plan whatsoever. Some over ambitious contractor then obviously used it for all of the extra paint, carpet, tile, fixtures, and before he knew it, I imagined that it looked partially liveable. What I mean is, this unit, despite its lower status, had the same carpeting, same paint scheme, same fixtures, although for some reason, the gas stove, fireplace and the plasma screens had all disappeared. Why is it that those things are provided to the ones who could obviously have afforded to purchase them extra in the first place.
I have to admit, it was encouraging to think that we could actually afford to buy something in that building. We’d never be able to live in it, but it was nice of the builders to throw a “bone” to those of us who have actually lived and worked and spent in that community for the past several years. It was encouraging although as I think about that experience this morning, practical guy thoughts permeate my brain waves. My mind drifts to practical questions like, “How would one get all of one’s furniture up to that place anyway?” I mean the elevator was a decent size and all, but we have a lot of stuff. I can’t imagine loading the only elevator up for two hundred trips worth of boxes, mattresses, couches, lamps and the like. Especially while, million dollar condo people are trying to get to their million dollar condo type business appointments. As I was contemplating all this it hit me. Even if I could afford it and even if I could get it all on the elevators, what would happen when we got our “stuff” in a million dollar condo? I’m not really sure, but I’d bet that it wouldn’t look all that “million dollar-ish” any longer. Our furniture is “well loved”, otherwise known as used. In fact much of it has been acquired along the way, more often than not, through friends and front yards. Don’t get me wrong, its generally nice stuff and my wife is a magician with what we’ve accumulated through our nomadic existence. However, I’m pretty sure that we’d be written out of the next edition of “Northwest Living”, once we were actually living in the space. I think many people, at least most that I know of, would be in that same predicament. Our reality would mess up our illusion within the first 24 hours. The only people I know of who that might not apply to are the people who would have hired others to move their stuff up the elevators anyway. It didn’t really seem the place where you invite a few friends with pick-ups and grab some pizza and just muscle it up there.
I think that this can be much like the picture of people who are struggling with their faith because they are struggling with the place they’re trying to live it out in. There is an illusion of grandeur that sometimes comes with how people view a church community. Before we get “into” one, there is an illusion. It looks shiny. It seems new. You don’t see catches in the carpet and stains on the couch. You might even picture yourself there. You imagine life with a view, greeting the neighbors on a ceramic tiled elevator after a long day, and coffee on a balcony watching the sunset on your life. That might be possible, except that you haven’t really moved in yet. When you really “move in” you discover that the colors of your stuff that looked fabulous in one place are actually a bit faded and even clash with some of the fixtures. You realize that the gas fireplace costs money to run 24 hours a day and the plasma screen still has 150 channels of “nothing on”. Your neighbors are consumed with life and not very open to neighborly things and every month you actually have to pay for all of this. A church community is like that. It’s a wonderful place until we move in and bring all of “us” with us. It is what it is. In many cases, it’s not the community that is as flawed as our expectations. I think that in the future, this realization is going to be very beneficial to me. I think that I won’t try as hard to change my surroundings as I do to work on the “furniture” that I bring with me.