Hospitality is providing the space to exist, to live, to thrive. We are all called to be hospitable.
When you are a host, you invite someone into your “space”, by creating space for them. When you move into a neighborhood, you are moving into a space already fashioned by those currently living there. Hence, you begin as guests and your neighbors as hosts. Over time, these labels become blurred, such that all neighbors, new and old, contribute to being hospitable to one another.
What might it look like to “love your neighbor as yourself” when moving into an off-campus living situation? Here is a top ten list to consider when moving off-campus:
1. Obey the law. In Grand Rapids, this means having no more than 4 unrelated people living together. If you have more then four people you want to live with consider an apartment complex like Glen Oaks where you can rent apartments next to each other. Also many neighborhoods have multiple homes for rent on the same block. In addition you could consider Knollcrest East or Timmer Hall. Grand Rapids police will enforce this city zoning ordinance.
This also means no underage possession or consumption of alcohol. It also means not permitting a disturbance of noise.
2. You are entering into someone else’s space – a neighborhood. It is incumbent upon you to learn about the neighborhood, neighbors and how to live well and contribute to your (new) particular neighborhood.
3. Be respectful. It is less about you and more about others.
4. Get to know your neighbors. Introduce yourself. Give your name and phone number and invite them to call if there are any problems (this is not just in case they may have an issue with you or your housemates, but also in the event that they see something going on at your house for which they may be of assistance, as in the case of breaking and entering, etc.).
5. Be aware of the stereotypes of college students in rental property. What are they? (loud, rich, privileged, could care less about the condition of the property and neighborhood, disengaged, overcrowding, too many cars, etc.) Work to dismantle those stereotypes.
6. Learn to love your neighbor as yourself. Practice this command (not a suggestion) of Christ.
7. Imagine living beside your parents, pastor, or professor. One way to practice loving your neighbor as yourself is to frame your off-campus living experience as though you were living beside someone you would not want to disappoint, or to whom you would not want to display a bifurcated life. By the way, the same goes for parents. We discourage them from purchasing a home for their son/daughter in which to live with friends unless the parents would want them to live next door.
8. College students have the reputation for not caring for neighborhoods. Neighbors often conclude that college students are transients, don’t rake leaves or shovel snow, don’t care about the condition of the house, etc. Remember, houses are the biggest investments most people make in their lifetime.
9. Consider parking! This is the number one nuisance that neighbors site in their complaints of college students in rental property. It is also the quickest way to draw attention to a property that may be in violation of other laws (e.g., overcrowding, noise, etc.).
10. Who do you represent? You represent Calvin. You represent Christ. We talk all the time about being “agents of renewal.” An agent is someone who acts on behalf of another, a representative. If you want to be a part of renewal, live and act like it to the people in your neighborhood, not just those across the aisle from you in the classroom. It is not enough to talk about being agents, ambassadors…the proof is in the doing. Actions truly do speak louder than words.