Last night I went to a women's event. It's a weekly event and I'm hoping to make some new friends. Until now I've been busy with the wedding, and summer usually means a hiatus in many programs. This was the first meeting of a new season.
I'm not the most outgoing person in the world - I consider myself to be shy. But I've learned to converse with strangers and although I come across as quiet, once you get to know me I can be quite boisterous. I have a sense of humour. I love nothing better than conversations that range from the serious to laughing so hard I cry.
I came home with a heavy heart last night. I know that making friends takes a long time. And I know that people who have friends are often not looking for more. But there was something missing from yesterday's meeting and I've been mulling it over today.
That missing ingredient was graciousness. From the moment I walked in the door there was little to welcome me. I felt like an outsider. No smiles of greeting, just a questioning look and when I said my name at the registration desk, I got, "Oh, we wondered who this person was - no one recognized your name."
I sat beside a woman at a table and began to converse. I asked her questions, she answered them, but didn't really reciprocate. I found out a lot about her, she found out little about me. When her friend arrived and sat on the other side of me, I was introduced, then ignored while they talked over me about things I knew nothing about.
I tried to enter in when I could. I lingered after the meeting, but no one spoke to me. I left, no one said "goodbye," or "we'll see you next week."
Graciousness: marked by kindness and warm courtesy, by charm and good taste.
The most gracious people I've ever met have been from the Southern U.S.A. Perfect strangers engaged me in warm conversation, asking questions not to pry, but to get to know me. They made me feel welcome, not an outsider.
I'll go again next week and I'm sure that over time, I'll get to know someone. But I don't feel like it. I feel like a pariah, as if there's something defective about me that repulses people. I know that's not true and I'm trying hard not to listen to that voice. But it's hard. Tears are very close. I miss my friends and my familiar groups. And I hope that I, when newcomers appeared, made them feel welcome, not alone. If I didn't, I know how they felt and I promise to do better.
Extend grace to a stranger today. You might just make their day.