Hello everyone! Hope you’re all doing well and are gearing up for the Fourth of July!
My blog has been pretty inactive for the past few weeks. Allow me to fix that. Commence story.
I’ve always been a bit of an introvert. And by “a bit,” I mean I would be perfectly happy to sit in my room, in my pajamas, with my cat, 24/7 if I could. To be honest, I kinda do that already.
I’ve gotten better as I’ve gotten older, though. Let’s just say, if you want to cure shyness, go to summer camp. I’ve always been the kind of kid who is perfectly content to have 3 or 4 really close friends and leave it at that. It’s only been fairly recently that that has changed. However, when I was younger, I was not exactly chomping at the bit to meet new people.
I’ve never really been the most popular kid. Honestly, I’ve never necessarily wanted to be popular…but I’ve never wanted to be left out either. However, I got left out a lot when I was younger. Being that I was introverted to begin with, whenever I was around a big group of kids, I was the one who couldn’t find a way to squeeze into the circle. I was the one who was quiet at birthday parties. I think this is why I’ve never been one for having a huge amount of friends or for going to parties. When it comes down to it, I kind of like being alone. Even when I went to the high school Wednesday night service at my church, I usually tried to find the seat that was farthest away from everyone. Not because I’m afraid of interaction, but because I’m more comfortable sitting by myself than I am with a big group of people. No matter how introverted you are though, there’s always a part of you that wants someone to hang out with and laugh with.
That’s how I was for a good chunk of my life.
One thing that I can remember leading to this changing was something my parents did when I was little. There was a Burger King in the town where I grew up that had the BEST play set (they don’t build fast food restaurant playsets like they used to). Sometimes my parents would take me there JUST to climb on the playset. However, they always had me do one thing while I was there. They had me make sure that I introduced myself to and made friends with at least one kid. Truth be told, I didn’t exactly enjoy this, but I always did it and it always turned out well.
As I got a little older, this friendly, outgoing mindset stuck with me. I can clearly remember when I was 7 or 8 befriending a girl at church who was dropped off at the kids’ service for the first time. She was screaming and crying over having to move up with the older kids and not being able to be with her parents. I remember going over to her, sitting with her, and being her friend. We sat together every week after that. Within the past few years, I even saw her at the high school church service and reintroduced myself.
When I was 9, a new family moved in across the street from me. I soon found out that they had a daughter who was my age. I didn’t want to go see her, but my dad took me over one day and our families met. We were a lot alike, and started hanging out everyday when she got back from school. She was about as shy as I was, but we always stuck together. She ended up moving to another neighborhood, but we still got to see each other. To this day, she is still my best friend, even though we’ve both changed a lot. We probably have more inside jokes than anyone on the planet (Alyssa, if you’re reading: *sniff*), and we have a great time together.
Two years or so ago, my mom, who heads up a homeschool support group, told me that she was having a meeting for new members at our house. She said there was a new lady who had a daughter a few years younger than me coming. The lady had asked if she could bring her daughter, and my mom asked me to hang out with the girl. Being the die hard introvert that I am, I was unsure of this whole arrangement. However, when I met Mac, we completely hit it off. She was a blast and we had a bunch of fun. She came with her mom to the next meeting. Mac is now one of my best friends and we still have a load of fun together.
One day, when I was probably 14, I was sitting in the high school service at my church with a few of my friends. As we were talking, I noticed a girl walk up and sit at the end of our row. She was alone, and I had never seen her before. During the service, I realized that this girl wasn’t your average goes-to-Wednesday-night-church-to-get-a-Monster-and-be-cool-with-her-friends teenager that made up for 60% of the crowd there that night. Through the entire service, she was paying attention, taking notes, and following along in the Bible she brought with her. That had a huge impact on me, because NO teenager does that anymore. I admired that attentiveness and commitment. As the service ended and teenagers filed out of the sanctuary, I made my way down the row to talk to her. I said hello and told her my name. She introduced herself as “Martha” and said she was visiting from Kentucky. We talked a little more, then agreed to sit together the following week. The next week, we met, and got to know each other better. As it turned out, we were both homeschooled (although she was a few years older than me). We found that we had a lot in common, and really hit it off. When it came time for her to go back home, we exchanged addresses and agreed to write to each other. That was around 3 years ago, and we’re still close and still write to each other today.
As you can see, many of my favorite people I met by going outside of my comfort zone and interacting with them. It was awkward at the time, but I can’t tell you how glad I am that I did.
What I want to propose is that teenagers, even Christian teenagers, don’t do a very good job at taking risks and reaching out to people. I believe that’s one of the best ways to show God’s love, and we don’t always nail it. How often do we pass up an opportunity to make someone’s day? How many times do we miss out on helping someone out or caring for someone who isn’t in our “clique?” I’m a culprit of this as much as anyone. If it weren’t for my parents training me early, I probably wouldn’t have met Martha, Alyssa, or Mac who are now some of my best friends.
7 years ago, I was the girl sitting in the corner shielding her eyes when people walked by (okay, I exaggerate slightly). Now, I’m the girl who wants to be friends with everyone and never wants to be involved in any sort of disagreement. Some of the friends I’ve made recently probably wouldn’t recognize me if they had met me a few years earlier.
Christian teenagers (all teenagers as a matter of fact) really need to step up their game on this one. With all the discussion over the last few years with bullying, this is important now more than ever. I’ve never been bullied, but I know that it stinks to be outside a group. You have no idea how big of an impact on someone’s life you can make by just going up and saying hi. I know it’s awkward and uncomfortable, but do it. You don’t have to make any lifelong commitments; just go introduce yourself. Ask the new kid at school to come sit with you at lunch. Invite the new girl in the neighborhood to your party. Introduce yourself to the boy sitting by himself at church. You never know, maybe you’ll succeed in making someone’s day. Or maybe, you’ll gain a lifelong friend. Best case scenario, you’ll get an opportunity to share your faith with someone.
Bottom line: as teenagers, we have become way too used to sticking with our group of friends, being safe, and going through life without looking out for others. We’re pretty much bred to be that way; that’s what society teaches us to do. However, as Christians, we can’t afford to make this mistake. God has called us to go above and beyond in this world. Christianity is too big to not influence how we interact with people. Jesus himself was famous for reaching out to the people that others ignored and loving them. Shouldn’t we be doing the same?
I think we should, which is why I want to encourage you to do so. I know it’s tough, I pass up some such opportunities myself. But in the end, you’ll be glad you did.
Feel free to share this post with any teens you know. Also, as always, go over to my Facebook page if you want to get updates about my blog. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Thoughts-of-a-Theophilus/321478084644751?fref=ts
Thanks for reading!