Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Stranger Beside You

Despite being a Realtor for years, I was required to attend a new member orientation yesterday. As I sat in the room full of people, I found myself looking around and wondering who looked the most approachable.

My husband attended the same meeting a few months ago and when I asked him what he thought of as he sat there, he said he was thinking about how boring it was and how long before he could get out of the room.

When I wrote the post yesterday, forgive me if it came across about me. I didn't mean it to. I was questioning how best to reach out to others as a ministry. What amazed me were some of the comments. I hope you had a chance to read them.

Here's what struck me:

It isn't about the activities. It isn't about the busyness. It isn't about having your husband and kids and enough friends already.

My daughter moved to Seattle three years ago. She attends a large church with her in-laws. She is outgoing and passionate about life, yet is unable to make those close friendships like she had back home. It isn't about the age or her having a child, I've discovered.

It's about what we've allowed to happen.

How does all this tie into writing? Consider how it is to write a short fiction piece. You can write it between eating dinner and watching American Idol. It doesn't take much effort and it doesn't mess with your own life too much.

But then you decide to write something deeper--a novel, perhaps. Here's where the effort comes in. Here's where it takes time, and maybe a critique group and a little more work. But the payoff when it's done is so much better.

Like sticking your neck out to have better relationships with those around you who just might need it--even if you don't.

I think most of the people who visit this blog are Christians. It broke my heart to read about the same story happening all across the country. One person has been in a new community for two years and doesn't know anyone well enough to call them up to go out for coffee.

We are busy people but the day might come for each of us when we have to move to a new city, or our children who keep us so busy grow up and move away, or our family dies off. Who will we be surrounded with at the end of our lives? Who do you want to say you encouraged along the way besides yourself?

Who is the stranger sitting next to you?


Greg C said...

I look at it this way. Someone has to take the first step and so what if it is always me. I like being the one that reaches out and touches someone. Sometimes you find out that there is a real need for friendship and that person was too afraid to ask for it. So what if I get rejected by a few people, making one person's day makes it all worth it.

I try to break the ice each time I meet a stranger. Yesterday I was rejected when someone failed to respond in any manner and they even turned their back on me after I said hello. It is their loss.

Good people of the world unite. We can make a difference.

I am still in the "in between other activities" mode but some day I will break out and go for it totally.

Kristen Painter said...

In this house the stranger sitting next to me is usually a cat.

Anonymous said...

I would love to have close friends but, again, life routines keep them as acquaintances. That's where I turn to family. I can always count on family.

The stranger sitting next me is no stranger at all...He's always there even when I can't feel Him or hear Him. A person is never alone if they just trust and believe in the one true friend; our gracious Father.

Lin said...

interesting topic, it takes courage to say hello to someone else at church you don't know and ask if they are new to the congregation. then that initial inquiry opens the door for further questions and interactions like where are you from, when did you move here etc. most welcome your friendliness some don't but you can't take it personally.

Wendy said...

We've moved six times in ten years of marriage.

I remember a pastor at one of our churches saying, "Wake up and pray that God would put someone in your path that you can love today, someone you can show God's love to."

I think that is a powerful and life-changing prayer.

The stranger may very well be someone God intends to connect us with.

~ Wendy

Jody Hedlund said...

Amdist the hectic pace of life, I want to remain open and sensitive to whomever God puts in front of me on the path. If he directs my steps then I need to reach out as he leads.

Cindy said...

Terri, thank you so much for doing these posts. I think they kind of hit a sore spot for me because it's been really hard to find close friends since I've become a Christian. And even harder, it was part of the cause for a bit of a rift in my family. I am the only one who goes to church, who really participates in church activities, etc.

I really like what Wendy said about praying God will put someone in our path. I searched awhile for mommy groups and other church groups that might help fill the void I seemed to be feeling but soon after that, things changed drastically with my writing and the family and suddenly I was too busy to attend any of these groups anyway. I am starting to remember and remind myself to believe that God has this path for me. That if this is the season in my life for focusing less on outside relationships and more on close family ones as well as my writing, then I should appreciate and follow his guidance. And the time will come, I believe, when other relationships, whether they are strictly for friendship or come from writing or whatever will be more important.

LisaShaw said...

Sweetie, there is SO MUCH I want to share here but I'll just chew on what you said.

Love you.

P.S. My husband and I were discussing my "writing" this morning. He is so encouraging and he helped me to see the BLOCK. I'll have to share with you via email and perhaps you can drop a tip or two.

Sassy Granny ... said...

It's sad, isn't it? We are told about how the body (church) works, and it works best when it's done in concert together with all parts. Any part operating alone is vulnerable.

I'm all about the reach ... be it within His Body, or outside. If we are to be salt & light, reach is indispensible. So is grasp.

Be blessed,

Andrea said...

Or what happens when tragedy strikes at your/our neighbors home and they do not know anyone well enough to ask for help and encouragement?

We need to somehow break down the barriors....

Praying with you, andrea

skoots1mom said...

wisdom from Wendy and Sassy Granny :)

there's a certain responsibility on both sides...the lonely person and everyone else

i find getting involved in small groups is THE way to get entrenched in a new place. baby steps to learn people, their situations...and yes, sometimes the lonely have to take the step to get out of their loneliness.

going to church with an attitude other than "what am i going to get out of it?"...maybe on a particular sunday it's more "who am i there for today?"...a prayer, a handshake, a hug, gosh you could even start with a smile across the room.

i've always been intrigued with nonverbals...they are powerful and we should learn to watch them, use them, or work around them. Sometimes its fun to break through them when the person showing them is unexpecting...trying to be stand offish!

Julie Gillies said...

Well said, Terri. I also like what Greg said..."someone has to take the first step".

Though we've moved many times, I've always reached out to neighbors and gotten to know people. It pays off big time because really, life is all about relationships.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Oh, wow, this is timely. We're talking about relationships a lot at church lately, and so this is so important to remember.

I was offline yesterday. Reading yesterdays post now.

Lynnette Bonner said...

I agree with those who mentioned praying to meet the right friends. A few years ago, one of my best friends moved away to another state. I missed her terribly (still do) and had no other close friends.

I still don't have anyone that I'm as close to as I am to her. But I had started praying about it. And about a year ago, I met another writer. She's in my writer's group. And while we are not nearly as close yet, our friendship is growing. We are both in busy times of our lives with kids, careers etc. So our time to get together is limited. But I thank God for bringing her into my life.

As for how-to on making relationships - I know how hard that can be. I grew up as a missionary kid and we moved all the time. I can only say that reaching out like Greg said, is sometimes painful, but more often rewarding.

Jessica said...

Great post! I don't mind God using me to touch someone, but in everyday life, it's hard for me to actually connect with people.
Not because I'm a mom, but because of me.
Throughout all my years of school and moving, I only have a very few friends.
I'll have to try harder to be more open to being close to others.

Jill Kemerer said...

Thanks for the reminder. It's easy to make an effort with people we know well, but it's rewarding when we take a chance on someone we don't know at all.

Melissa Marsh said...

It took me nearly five years after living here to have close friends that I could call and hang out with. I look back on that period and remember being very lonely and sad. The internet was definitely my source of friendship and support back then (and still is in a lot of ways today).

Deborah said...

I'm just catching up reading here. great posts!
I think sometimes churches keep us so busy, even with 'fellowshipping' that there is no time to form real friendships, even in small congregations.

K.M. Weiland said...

Thanks for the reminder. Particularly in this technological era, when we are constantly connecting with people on superficial levels (social sites, texting, email, etc.), it's sometimes easy to forget that relationships require love and care and time... and face-to-face interaction.

Angie Ledbetter said...

All these good comments prove again how many good people are out "there" just waiting for an extended hand. :)

KelliGirl said...

I've been blessed that I don't have an overly busy schedule right now (shhh, don't tell anyone). I'm often able to reach out to casual acquaintance for a cup of coffee or chat. As a result, many former strangers are now friends.

We do need to make an effort. These relationships won't come to us if we don't sit back and wait for them. Taking the first step is scary, but worth it.

There are lots of lonely, busy people out there just looking to connect with someone else at a more intimate, personal level.

T. Anne said...

I don't know where relationships went either. Funny how life got in the way of living, isn't it?

Ritergal said...

Most of my dearest friends live in my computer and these faceless souls are some of the most helpful, encouraging people I know and life would not be the same without them.

All my close local friends are fellow writers or involved with the library where I volunteer and serve as a board member. Some have come from writing classes I teach.

Look outside your box, follow your passions, seek others who share them, and your life will soon be full of more close relationships than you can shake a stick at.

Nancy said...

I agree with Deborah. When we get so bust with church activities, we have no time to schedule fun times or getting together times with the people we meet. This relationship thing is all a part of "taking it out to the world" which we are supposed to be about. I am still trying to do this and it has many rewards.

Yolanda said...

To have a friend I must be a friend. I'm looking for depth, because I tend to think of shallow as just acquaintances, with no real "meat" into the relationship. Often the strangers are those that have put up barriers that I can't seem to get across....and then I think, ok, that is not where God wants me.

Love ya!

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

We attented the annual relay for life walk last evening. Our community/church has great participation in this as so many of our folks are dealing with cancer. While there, I chatted briefly with a dear friend who has cancer. Once arriving home, God impressed upon my heart that I was standing on the outskirts of her pain and needed to be more involved with her life.

I called her today, baked a cake and took it over to her house. We sat in her room for about an hour, talking about everything from physical pains to the deeper spiritual pains she is feeling. This allowed her husband some time to go out and mow the lawn.

At the end of our time together, both of us agreed that the Lord has brought us together today.

God's theology of the "one." The kingdom is built one relationship at a time; more work is done on our one on ones than could ever be amassed in the larger settings.

I pray you find some good souls to connect with over the coming days. I'm trying to be more available and intentional about seeking them out.


Carmen Gamble said...

Well said it so well. I used to be very shy, but then realized people thought I was stuck up. So I worked hard at being approachable and putting aside my own issues. Eventually I learned to risk reaching out as well. The real "bosom buddy" friendships take more time, but are so worth it.

I realized my comment on your earlier post wasn't complete. I didn't mean to imply that there's no point in having friends. I value my God, my friends and my family!!

easytravel said...

I think you are great writer. thanks for share. keep on writing. I'll wait you on my blog.thanks

beBOLDjen said...

As a busy mom of 4 I often struggle to keep aware of others around me in public. I have many close friends I enjoy deep relationships with which means it would be easy for me to close off myself to opportunities to meet new people, especially non Christians. I have been working and praying that God would keep me aware of others I may encounter in my neighborhood whether it be at the park, the grocery store or the local cafe. The goal is to encourage others with intentional acts of kindness though I've been aware lately that it takes work for me to stay conscious. Especially on days when I feel like I'm ringleader of a traveling zoo :-)