I grew up in a military family. My father was career Navy which means we moved around…a lot. It wasn’t so bad when I was younger. We would move to a new state and inevitably, a kid would knock on our new front door and say “Do you have any kids my age?” (Kids age 10 and under are just that bold.) That would be the beginning of days playing in the woods across the street, jumping rope, and riding our bikes to the candy store where 25 cents would actually buy 25 pieces of penny candy. Those friendships happened easily.
As I got closer to high school, it wasn’t as cool to be the new kid. It was harder to make friends—mostly because the other kids had already formed groups and weren’t really looking for new faces. I was not outgoing back then (hard to believe, right?) and felt awkward, lost, and like I’d never belong. But I did manage to make some great friends because they ventured outside their comfort zones and invited me to sit with them at lunch, come along to movies, and simply just to hang out. Now that I am an adult, I like to think that I am inclusive, but I know that I sometimes forget how it felt to be an outsider.
I recently came across Am I Invisible? The Pain Relieving Response to Being Rejected or Excluded, a blog post by Rachel Mary Stafford that resonated with me. I included the link below so I hope you will read it, but I will share a few things that stood out for me. The author talks about how her daughter started a new activity and had a tough time feeling accepted into the group with the other kids. As her mom (the author) was waiting for her to be done with the activity, she was met with rude behavior when she attempted to engage another group of moms. She used this instance to educate her daughter and herself. She told her to always try to remember the way it feels to be shunned, excluded, or ignored so you will make an effort to include others who may feel like outsiders. She writes:
- Remember this when you are in familiar territory and someone new walks up looking for guidance.
- Remember this when you see someone on the outskirts anxiously holding her own hand.
- Remember this when someone approaches you and asks a question—see the bravery behind the words.
- Remember this when you see someone stop trying—perhaps he’s been rejected one too many times.
- Remember this when you see someone being excluded or alienated—just one friendly person can relieve the painful sense of feeling invisible.
- Remember the deepest desire of the human heart is to belong … to be welcomed … to know you are seen and worthy of kindness.
So I challenge you with this goal for the week: Invite someone new to lunch, to study, or just simply make an effort to ask them a few questions about themselves. You never know how it will make their day—or they may remember it for the rest of their lives.