I grew up in a large metro area in the mitten. We then moved toward the beach with all of it's ah glorious sand and sky moments. Four years later? Back to the mitten.
Then we flew south.
We'd lived under the dividing line when we'd done the Charleston years. I was a believer in warmth and hospitality. I even owned a frame that had a pineapple on it. I decided this time I'd become a rebel and forego the accent and sweet-tea. I was not prepared for the culture shock that would assault our family. I thought we'd done this before, it would be easy and we'd be accepted because our new area was practically a transplant/retirement zone anyway. I thought it would be a piece of cake.
I was mistaken.
We moved in, got the big kiddo registered in the local public school Little Bit wasn't school aged yet, found a pediatrician, a dance studio, and began looking for a church. We attended every neighborhood and work related get-together and went to the subdivision pool at least four times a week. Making friends was a piece of cake, right? Wrong.
In a perfect world, humans are accepting, welcoming, warm individuals. At least you hope they are....
In real life, we are complicated, preoccupied with our own schedules and agendas, and judgmental. I'm not saying EVERYONE is like this, just most of us. We forget to see the big picture because we're in our own comfort zone. We don't like travelling outside the lines. We fumble with being gracious.
I'm not on a soapbox here. I stink at hospitality. It's not my gift or my love language. I'm good at loving people and meeting needs. I have a heart for it. But, in my own home I am not great at hosting others. It is a trait I realize in myself and I work to change. Part of the issue is that I work so hard at making others feel welcome that I tucker myself out. Entirely and completely. At this point I am no longer any fun and I ruin what I've tried to do in the hospitality department. I live daily with my autoimmune issues. I know exactly what they are. Most people never know that there's anything at all wrong with me. I like it that way. I like being normal. Wink....I'm great at it in public. Which brings me back to: When you don't feel 100% most of the time, you can only hide it from others if they leave your home. Hence, my issues with hospitality. I know and acknowledge my weakness.
All of that said, moving was not easy-peasy. It takes work, time, and energy to form strong, lasting relationships. It means letting people in. I'm saying the following for all of us who have moved, who are moving, or who have been in the same community for a lifetime.
OPEN YOURSELF TO THE NEW
The accent might grow on you. The culinary delights may or may not impress. Worship and education will probably be vastly different. ACCEPT.
Take treats. Invite newbies to movies or offer to show them around the local grocery store. Stop the man at the register from calling them "darling" and "sweet-cheeks" (Yes, I was called both and a variety of other things. No, he wasn't referring to my face)
When you're new, accept the help when it's offered. Reciprocate on the invitations even when you feel whelmed. Open your heart and your doors to the unexpected friends. They are out there, just waiting to find you if you're willing. It may take time, but relationships are worth it.
It's okay to be who you are, who you were created to be...YOU are amazing. Our God created you. Go ahead and show that unique, lovely, heart-catching person to the world. Be a friend who is real. Who has time. Who is messy. I'm not perfect...and neither is my entire community. We all fit in someplace, it's just in taking the time to figure out where that place is.
You'll probably be disappointed. You're used to friends who sound like you and come from your background. Open yourself up to others. Love them like they are...you'll probably stop checking the list of different and change the title to friend. Look for beauty.
This may be met with an UGH from some of you. Churches can be the worst place to make friends. In my experience, they are the hardest place to connect. It shouldn't be like this, but it is, more often than not. But...Worship is good for your heart. Period. People will open up. You'll find a niche. If not at that first place then at the fifth. Keep trying. It sounds cliche, but our God is always with you. Always. Even in the new, you are never alone.
Moving is...Exciting. Confusing. Adventurous. It's full of the unexpected.
So are we.
Be the hospitality you wish see in your world.