by Jessica Mandich
When I moved to Pittsburgh three years ago, I didn’t know anyone in my apartment building, nor did I socialize with them. I was the only tenant with a vision disability in my building.
To be completely honest, my neighbors didn’t know how to socialize or interact with a person with a vision disability. Sure, I could break the ice and introduce myself. But I hardly see them during the day. Every now and then I’ll get a “Hi, how are you?” or “Have a nice day” and maybe once in a while a little bit of small talk, like to ask about the weather. I’d never get anything more than that, even if we needed help bringing in heavy bags or if there’s a package for me that I don’t know about.
The only socialization I had with the apartment complex was primarily from the manager’s office. And the tenants from other buildings? Primarily the community areas such as the community pool. I remember one time I managed to get tangled up with another swimmer. It was the first real interaction I had with a fellow resident. A few minutes later a teenager asked me why I was wearing sunglasses when it was cloudy out. But those people were not my neighbors.
When coronavirus came to Pittsburgh I had to prepare early before essential supplies like toilet paper ran out. Two months into the pandemic and stay-at-home orders, I get a phone call from management. The manager asked if I knew any neighbors who were offering me help. And I told her that I hardly even speak a word to my neighbors. She then tells me that the neighbor above me hasn’t seen me out and about lately. The neighbor saw that my mom’s tires on her car were flat for over a month. Concerned and wanting to help, she contacted management. The manager told me that if I ever needed anything to leave a note taped to my door. I thanked the manager but informed her that because I am high-risk (due to organ transplant) I cannot allow non-delivery personnel to handle my orders or approach my door. With delivery, those people are wearing masks and gloves. Plus, some are using hand sanitizer to the point where I can smell it. But those people are ordered by their company to use proper hygiene with each and every delivery. Some companies like DoorDash and Target offer contactless delivery, but with the neighbors, you simply don’t know who’s sick and who is not. Anytime I open my door, I run the risk of catching your cold or your virus.
Before I hung up the phone, I asked the manager to pass along a note on my behalf to thank the neighbor for her offer, that if I ever needed assistance I would leave a note on my door. Even if I cannot accept her offer, I do appreciate the kind gesture. After all, I didn’t want to be rude to her.
Even if my sister and brother-in-law are not able to pick up groceries, I can always use Instacart or Target’s same day or two-day delivery.
The one thing that concerns me the most? Just how long this type of kindness and generosity will continue, and whether it will last after the virus is long gone. It should not take a virus or a pandemic for neighbors to reach out to those who are the most vulnerable.
To the neighbor who kindly offered my mom and I assistance, we simply say thank you. I hope to thank you in person and pay it forward once this virus is long gone.