My heart thumps in protest as I shuffle up the driveway, invitation in hand. Should I ring the doorbell, or knock? If I knock, should I open the screen door and knock on the front door? I decide to ring the doorbell. I can hear the rhythmic swish of blood through the veins in my head as I press the button. My mouth dries up as footsteps approach. I almost wish no one was home, but as the deadbolt clicks and the door cracks open, I remind myself of why I’m here, on this terrifying-for-an-introvert mission.
I’ve never been the kind of person who strikes up a conversation with the person behind me in line at the store. No; I’m the kind of person who revels in the invention of wireless earbuds because I can get lost in an audiobook while shopping and avoid awkward interactions.
If there’s one thing the pandemic taught me, it’s that people are lonely, not scary. A kind word is not only appreciated; in many cases, it’s needed. I reluctantly quit shopping with my earbuds and resolved to try offering some encouragement to the shoppers around me. Over the past few months, I’ve failed more often than I’ve succeeded.
Paying attention to others is a skill that requires cultivation.
Still, despite what Yoda would say, I have tried and I will continue to try. But is that really enough? Smiling at an occasional stranger and making eye contact with the checker doesn’t seem like a genuine effort at fulfilling the Great Commission:
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19 – 20, NASB 95)
How can I even begin to do that when everyone I know goes to my church?
How can I justify the fact that everyone I know goes to my church?
I can’t. I don’t know any of my neighbors – that’s on me.
Okay, I know I should try, but I’m not “cool.” I don’t watch the latest TV shows, or read the best seller list, or follow sports. If I tried to have a conversation with a neighbor, I would come across as super lame and boring. “Sorry, the only things I know enough to talk about are literature and Jesus.”
I began to see that I had two choices. I could either start learning about pop culture and engage with people based on their interests, or… I could do something that felt really outrageous: I could invite them into my world.
Now, I don’t mean to boast, but I can throw a killer tea party. I may not be cool, but who doesn’t love treats? What if I just invited two or three neighbors to a tea party – not a literature-themed shindig, much as I would love that, but a simple, 4th of July spread with red, white, and blue goodies. And iced tea, because it’s summer, and my neighbors probably aren’t into hot tea.
I’m not jumping off the deep end, planning a gospel presentation or anything like that. Just inviting a couple ladies I should have met three years ago, and hopefully get to know them. Show some interest in their lives, try to bless them, and not stress over it.
So here I am, standing on my neighbor’s porch, and she’s opening the door, and I’m handing her a homemade invitation to a tea party. She may not think I’m cool, but she’ll know I care.
The featured image is courtesy of Julie Jablonski and is used with her kind permission for Cultivating and The Cultivating Project.
Athena lives and writes in Colorado Springs, where she can look up at the mountains and be reminded of the nearness of God. Hiking, reading, and spending time with her family are her passions. She and her husband, Jon, are actively involved in the Anselm Society, and they also run a ministry for blended families at their church. Whether through fiction, nonfiction or poetry, Athena loves to use words to paint portraits that display the work that God does within each person.