Sunday, April 15, 2012

Are you new?! Nope...been coming here for a long time...

I honestly enjoy meeting new people but I know this isn't the case for everyone. Raising my kids, I've tried to teach them that there should always be room in our hearts for a new friend.

When there is a new kid in their classroom, I'm nosy and ask my children to find out more about that person. Where did they go to school before they joined their class? Do they go to church? If so, where? Has anyone included them in their circle of friends? And so on. Often, my children have answered most of my questions with "I dunno!" But I still encourage them to find out...but more importantly, to be kind to them and to invite them into their circle of friends. Sometimes this works out well and new friends are found all around. Sometimes they find out that a new friendship is not possible due to personality conflicts. But I would hope that everyone feels like they did something to make the other feel welcome. If a new friendship is formed, then everyone wins. And if not, at least they tried.

Awhile back, there was a child who we got to know and invited to several outings. At first it seemed to work out as the kids hit it off well. But a few weeks later, this child made other friends and my child was not included in that circle. Now, years later, my child has realized that new friendships aren't always possible. Sometimes the other child can be hard to get to know. Sometimes they form their own cliques where others aren't included (which turned out to be the case with this child). At least that child did not enter a new environment & feel invisible or bullied, as so often happens when a child changes schools.

As a parent, I'm not comforted by the closed circles of friends I see at my kids schools. Those groups that have been together since Kindergarten and appear to be exclusive. The ones that do not change from year to year, yet new kids come and go. Do these kids know what they are missing out on? Do they know the heartbreak that many classmates go through when they are not even thought of when birthday parties are planned and invites are given out? Are they taught to care? Isn't it our job as parents to encourage our children to be more like Christ, accepting others and opening up our lives to include them? Is it a lack of tolerance? Maybe we're so busy, it's just easier to go through the years without going out of our way.

So what about adults? Are we exempt from including others? How often do we have our comfortable circle of friends and we're very content in the closed familiarity of it. There are book clubs, coffee outings, Saturday lunches, even prayer groups that seem exclusive. Besides waving hello or small talk in passing at the grocery store, when is the last time we truly visited with someone we don't usually hang out with?

Don't get me wrong. It's important that we all form lasting, nurturing bonds and have lifelong, best friends. I think it's healthy & pretty wonderful. But I also think it's incredibly close minded to not give others a chance. We can't leave it up to someone else to make the first move. We might be missing out on someone pretty amazing. We might be missing out on a lifetime of friendship.


Jill said...

I think this is a very thoughtful post Rebecca. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for teaching your children to be accepting and open to new possibilities. I think it's really hard to step out of your comfort zone and make friends as adults, not to mention as a teen. I moved here almost 12 years ago and stepping into this community where many have grown up here is hard. There are cliques in the adult world too. I still remember the very first person who made a point to come and sit down next to me at church and ask the kinds of questions that you are encouraging your children to ask. I felt very cared about and welcome. We would all do well to remember to look for possibilities and opportunities in social settings at any age. Thanks for a great post!

Rebecca and Andrew said...

Thanks for reading, Jill! I am guilty of not inviting anyone over except for our 4th of July party, then it's a free for all! I do not like exclusive cliques. I understand groups of friends who get together but all too often, I see that they aren't becoming friends with anyone new and it seems like that is a foreign concept...which trickles down to their children.

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