A Communal Commotion


There was a bit of excitement on the first floor of the apartment complex as two Americans opened their door to let a rush of smoke billow out into the hallway.

These foreigners (or ‘ya-ban-jihs’ as locals call them) had semi-spiked their neighbors’ curiosity when they moved in about 7 months ago, but as time passed, their newness wore off and the locals kept politely to themselves.

However, as smoke started pouring into their apartment, not knowing who to call, the Americans ran across to the neighbors and knocked on their door.

The old woman opened the door, saw the smoke, and yelled “fire fire!”

Old-man-to-the-rescue pulled on his pants, threw on a winter coat, and stepped over into the young couples’ threshold. They pointed him to the busted breaker, smoldering with putrid smoke. Alarmed, he ordered the American boy to run to the the basement and get the doorman.

The boy leaped down the steps two at a time.

After turning the main electricity off, the boy quickly returned with the doorman. Thankfully the smoke started to slow from its steady stream to a whispy leak.

While all this was happening, the upstairs tenants came downstairs complaining of a bad smell and saw the commotion. Cell phones came out, questions were thrown at them, and noses began to poke.

“What did you do? Why does it stink?” The worried neighbors insisted on knowing what was happening.
“Nothing! We were eating dinner and all of a sudden our house started to fill with smoke and smell bad. But don’t worry, the doorman is helping us.” The blonde woman reassured the covered woman that the situation was under control.

Still, just in case, the man whose wife had been interrogating the blonde dialed the doorman to make sure. Then together they devised a plan for the electrician to come fix the yabancis’ problem in the morning. He left only to come back a minute later, advising the kids to put their meat on the chilly balcony outside so it wouldn’t go bad.

The apartment still wreaked like a dead rodent. As the foreigners were deciding what to do next, the neighbors graciously asked them to come over for tea. The old man and woman weren’t upset for being bothered late at night. In fact, it seemed that they enjoyed being able to help this young couple and wanted the evening to continue.

The couple was welcomed in, greeted with kisses, and ushered straight into the living room where they were presented with a table of dishes filled with nuts and dried fruits. They were asked whether they preferred their tea in a glass or a mug.

“Eat more, eat more.” The wrinkly face smiled and gestured towards the table.

So they ate more.

It was a typical conversation of who are you and where did you grow up, what do you like about Turkey and what food do you cook… They exchanged favorite recipes and suggested places to go on walks in the city.

The Americans went to bed that night grateful for the turn of events and for the helpful community God placed them in. They praised the Lord for their safety and that nothing worse had happened.


A Plate of Cookies

It’s comforting to know that a plate of cookies holds the same universal message. When one looks down and sees hands extending homemade goodies piled high, generally the feeling received is one of warmth, kindness, and friendship. After working some serious overtime hours in the kitchen during Christmas, my mom and I would always create plates of assorted holiday treats and go door-to-door passing them out to our neighbors and friends. Upon hearing our knock, the door would open, smiles exchanged, invitations inquired, and conversations shared. Hearts were blessed and stomachs tastefully filled.

Would I have gone door-to-door without the plate of cookies? Most likely not. See, I have this strange fear of being received empty handed. It’s as if I need an excuse or peace offering, something to hide behind. A reason to be standing outside your door other than “Hi, will you ask me inside so we can connect and get to know each other better?” Yeah. Not so much.

So, I bake cookies and present them as my plead for friendship. It’s like a secret password. A magical spell. I have yet to have the door slammed in my face when holding this symbolic offering. Really-who can turn down cookies? Well, I know Americans can’t. Time to test it out on the Turks!

With the confidence sourced from our freshly baked ginger cookies, my roommates and I climbed to the 3rd level of our apartment complex, took a deep breath, and knocked. Will it work? Thankfully, the traditional plate of cookies powerfully transcends time and culture; not only did 3rd floor accept our gift, but 2nd floor did as well! We were invited inside for tea and conversation with our Turkish neighbors!

Three hours later, we scaled back down to our 1st floor dwelling with happy hearts and new friends. Ironically, we didn’t even leave empty handed. On the plate where the ginger cookies used to be, Turkish treats now resided! Never will I doubt the power of a cookie plate. We emptied it only to have it be filled. Hmmm. Do I sense a metaphor here?