I’d passed the shelter multiple times, read the sign, saw people milling about, and became curious (imagine that!). After two days, my initial caution surrendered to curiosity and I headed to the shelter.
Since this all took place during Star-Spangled Celebration, our local country music festival, I assumed folks gathered for the music. I learned SSC gave the group a place and a time to gather but they were “just friends who want to get together.”
I also knew the friendship circle was closed.
The game is locked.
Nobody else can play.
How did I know I wasn’t welcomed at McCarville’s Team Luau! Wet Coconut Contest Tonight shelter?
Faces registered suspicion. When I strolled up to a group around a table, a few brows furrowed and lips tightened. I could tell they wondered why a stranger would invade their space.
Answers to my questions were curt. When I asked questions, they offered quick replies with little explanation. If I stopped asking, they stopped talking.
Bodies remained turned away from me. No one looked at me or shifted their attention towards me. I looked into a person’s ear rather than his eyes whenever someone did answer me.
Their activity continued unabated. Folks played a card game without missing a shuffle, a deal, or a play.
I was an interruption and I knew it.
In a healthy community centered in Christ, we treat strangers differently than the coconut people. And if we don’t, we’re neither healthy nor centered in Christ.
Go through this check list next time you’re with a group of Christians.
Do their faces register openness or suspicion when someone new enters the room? If you’ve taken a class in human behavior (or watched a television show about a doctor who studies human behavior), you know that eyes widen and a smile appears on the face of a person who’s excited to see you.
Do they invite and respond to a stranger’s curiosity? Again this isn’t rocket science (although I do love the NASA t-shirt that says, “This is rocket science!”). You know when a person shows genuine interest in you. She asks more than, “How are you?” And she doesn’t just offer you curt replies.
Do they shift their bodies in a way that allows the stranger into the circle? When someone sees you and breaks off what he’s doing to come to you, his physical change speaks volumes. It also allows you to relax. You may not know him but you don’t feel abandoned to a social island.
Does their activity shift as well in order to accommodate the new person? The community adjusts its agenda from talking about what’s familiar among friends to what’s comfortable for someone who has entered the circle of friends for the first time.
Let’s use four friends playing cards as an example to illustrate what welcoming the stranger looks like.
The stranger walks up to the table. All four players look up and smile. The pretty brunette with blue eyes says, “Hi! What’s up?”
The stranger says, “I saw ya’ll playing cards and I was just curious. Are you having a family reunion or something?”
“No, we’re just friends,” says the blond guy. “You’re welcome to join us.”
A heavy set guy pushes his chair back and says, “Here. Why don’t you take my spot?”
The stranger says, “I don’t even know what you’re playing.”
The heavy set guy, still holding out his seat, says, “We’re playing Go Fish!”
“I don’t know how to play Go Fish!”
The brunette says, “Oh, that’s alright we can teach you, if you want.”
The stranger says, “May I just watch for a while.”
Heavy set guy says, “Sure. But please take my seat. I’ll grab another chair from over there.”
All four friends introduce themselves to the stranger.
Now what would welcoming a stranger look like in your family or church or Bible study or prayer group or … you fill in the blank?
I want to give you an assignment, one I’d love to hear back from you on. Next time you’re present in community observe the interactions between people.
I’m curious. Are there unfamiliar faces among the group? How does the community respond? Who shines with generous hospitality? Does the community as a whole reflect welcome or a who-really-cares attitude?
Slice of Infinity’s “Who Was He?”
Slice of Infinity’s “Point of Exclusion”
A Minute With Maxwell video “Timing”
Literary aka Literatus an interview about me and my novel
Ron Edmondson writes “Solid Advice for Young Leaders from Dr. Billy Graham”
Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes
Two men. Two eternal destinies.
One common hope.
My novel can be found at:
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