I often get slack from some of my friends because I frequently invite wildcards to hang outs. A wildcard means – someone I’ve only recently met or, someone we know but isn’t as close to the group or just someone who is kind of annoying to be around. My friends are great but I usually do this with little to no warning. Ask for forgiveness, not permission, right? I do this because I know what it feels like to be on the outside looking in and if I can help it, I will do whatever I can to prevent someone else from feeling that way. Every time I make a new friend, I make a mental note to cap it. “Alright Jo, this person is surprisingly cool and you can shuffle some things around to make time for him/her but that’s it! No more new pals!” . I’m not alone in thinking this way, right? Sometimes, you just don’t have the time or mental/emotional capacity for new friendships! You’re busy! You need to focus on yourself right now. You’re in a relationship, you have kids, you volunteer, your job is really demanding, the kids have extra-curriculars and you barely have time for yourself! You would if you could, but you can’t so you won’t. But the thing is: You should. And you could. And you can. So you must.
Friendships don’t always look the same. There’s the guy in your wedding photos that you never speak with anymore; or the girl you met last year but clicked with and now you would give her your lungs if she really needed them; maybe it’s your barista that you speak with every week for a few minutes but are really starting to get to know. I was a barista for almost a year. I was given personal contact information from quite a few of my regulars while I was there. I could tell you how one of them felt when their father passed. I could tell you about one of them coming out to their family, or getting an internship at Amazon or getting fired or getting scholarships to Monaco or the struggles of moving here as a single mother going from a 6 figure job to a minimum wage one. These were all acquaintances. But I will tell you right now, if I ran into any of them tomorrow and they wanted to hang out with me – I would say yes in a heartbeat. Maybe they would be the kind of friend I only see once a month or even just a phone call here and there, but they would be part of my community.
What does your community look like? Do they look like you? Do they think, act and speak in similar ways that you do? Did they grow up in the same town? Did their parents make a lot of money? Did they have a pool? Did they grow up in an apartment? Are they refugees? Are they first gen? Are they immigrants? Are they from the same faith background? Have they ever owned a car? Been on a plane? Are they divorced? Do they listen to the same music? Are they queer? Do they have conventional jobs? Are they artists? Are they Black? Are they Asian? Are they emotional? Are they men? Are they women? Are they trans? Do they have an accent? Do they eat the same food you do? Are they addicts? Have they gone through AA? Do they vote Liberal? Do they vote conservative? Oh my go- … DO THEY VOTE AT ALL?! (I am very serious about the duty to vote… for another blog though…)
Look: we NEED community. And if you already have a strong one – you need to keep building it! Judging people comes so easy to me – wow. It’s unreal. Is there a better feeling than looking at the map of terrible decisions someone has made that ultimately led them to the life-shaped toilet they find themselves in; all while basking in your own good decisions and wonderful life? Let me tell you, it can feel fantastic. But you know what feels better? Being in community with them (and NOT judging). It feels good to get out of your comfort zone and meet people where they’re at. Learning about their lives and what brought them to where they are; what brought them to you! That doesn’t mean that you speak with them every second of everyday or that you have scheduled hang outs. It just means that one way or another, they are part of your life and that you care enough to be a part of theirs. I am so incredibly grateful for the people in my life. If they didn’t decide that I could be at their table, Lord only knows where I would be today. So no matter how busy life gets, I know that I need to keep extending my table to new people – for my sake and theirs. The stakes are high y’all.
I get that some people can be a lot, or needy or extra – TBH, I am all of these things. But we all need to be doing more. It’s high risk, high reward and I promise, it will be better for us ALL in the long run. The views from new perspectives are beautiful and the journey in different shoes is transformative. You want the world to change? Start with your world. Expand your table. Make the effort to get out of your comfort zone. If everyone in your neighbourhood looks and acts like you – go shop in a different neighbourhood. Get your groceries at an ethnic food store. Eat at a restaurant in a different part of town. Sit on the other side of the room at church. Take your kids to a new park and make friends with a new family. Talk with your barista. Make it your responsibility to make a new person feel seen and heard because honestly, it is your responsibility. And it’s mine, too! When a community thrives, the town thrives, then the city and so on and so forth.
Your homework for the week: Invite someone new into your community! Then message me from their part of life and let me know what the views are like 🙂