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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Hospitality (02/07/05)

TITLE: Potlucks and Poker Parties
By Verlie Ruhl


Lindsay sat expectantly in an empty pew in the beautiful old church building. She shoved a strand of hair behind her ear and thought to herself, bring on the friends! She was new to this area, having just accepted a position with a local engineering firm. The job was wonderful, but Lindsay was suffering from a serious case of loneliness. She’d gotten a flier from the church in the mail this past week, inviting the community to come for the first lesson of a new sermon series, with a potluck lunch provided afterward. The clincher, though, had been the slogan at the bottom of the pamphlet: The Rockbridge Church—Where Friendships Await You!

The church began to fill with people. Lindsay scooted over to make room for someone to sit beside her, but everyone passed by her row. She caught the eye of one young mother who smiled back hesitantly, but then proceeded on down the aisle to sit with a large family near the front. When services began, Lindsay surreptitiously glanced around and discovered she was the only person in the congregation sitting alone. Although she enjoyed the singing and found the sermon interesting, she felt awkward and uncomfortable.

Well, who can socialize during church? she asked herself. I’ll have an opportunity to meet people during the potluck. She dutifully followed the crowd to the fellowship hall, stood in line, filled her plate, and jostled her way to a place at one of the crowded tables. She had what she hoped was a pleasant and approachable smile pasted on her face. Everyone was talking and laughing—and seemed to be too busy with their own families and acquaintances to notice her. When she finished eating, she decided to introduce herself to a couple of young women standing nearby. They were evidently coordinating the kitchen clean-up, though, and hurried away together before Lindsay could make herself heard over the crowd. She finally gave up, and slipped out the door.

Although the afternoon was warm, Lindsay’s heart felt frostbitten as she trudged home. Her loneliness was amplified by her experience at the church. What was wrong with her? Why couldn’t she fit in? She arrived at her apartment building, and climbed up the stairs. As she fumbled in her purse for her keys, the door across the hall opened, and a tall redheaded girl bounded out. “Oh, hi!” she said. “You’re new here, aren’t you? I’m Amy.”

“Hi, Amy,” Lindsay muttered. “My name is Lindsay. Nice to meet you.” She turned back toward her door. She just wasn’t up for any more attempted socializing today.
Amy was not so easily put off. “I’ve invited some friends over for a game of poker, and we’re just getting started. Would you like to join us?”

“Thanks, but I don’t know how to play.” Lindsay looked harder for her keys.

Amy leaned over and whispered, “We don’t either.” Startled, Lindsay looked at her as she straightened and laughed. “But we’re going to figure it out. Come on over—it’ll be fun!”

Lindsay smiled in spite of herself. “Well . . . o.k. Let me put my things away.”

A few moments later, she found herself sitting at Amy’s kitchen table, having been introduced to three other girls. Amy began to scan her Hoyle’s Handbook for poker rules, while Melinda dished up bowls of Rocky Road ice cream.

“Hey,” the girl named Kathy remarked. “Don’t you work at Wells and Wyman?”

“Yes, I just started there,” Lindsay replied.

“I work there too! I thought I’d seen you before.” Kathy turned to the others. “She’s the assistant to that gorgeous new Vice President I was telling you about.”

The others looked at Lindsay with interest and a little envy. “What’s he like?” Amy wanted to know.

“Not so gorgeous.” Lindsay hated having to burst their bubble. “He slurps his coffee, spends quite a bit of time on the phone with his mother, and has some sort of nasal problem—he snorts a lot.”

The girls hooted with laughter. “You have to have lunch with me tomorrow,” Kathy implored.

“O.K.,” Lindsay smiled. A warm feeling spread through her as she waited for Amy to deal the cards. That church flier had been partially right—friendships had been awaiting her! Just not at the church. . . .

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This article has been read 1076 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Cynthia Zirkwitz02/14/05
Interesting twist in a Christian story! Your details draw a clear picture of how it feels to be left out. Good work!
Lynda Lee Schab 02/16/05
Unfortunately, this probably goes on in more churches than we realize. Many visitors are put off by the lack of warmth & welcome in church and I can't blame them! This piece was nicely written. Perhaps it would have been more powerful if you had focused on Lindsey receiving no hospitality from the church and how it left her feeling. Kind of send a stronger message about the lack of welcome in the church. Just my opinion.
Well done though. I enjoyed reading this.
Blessings, Lynda
Bob Zoellner02/16/05
Sad to say, I can relate. As I finished reading, I thought of the old sitcom Cheers: "Sometimes you wanna go...where everybody knows your name. And they're all so glad you came..."
We need to do a better job of reaching people where they are. Good work.
Suzanne R02/20/05
So sad ... but so possible. Well done. It's a good reminder to each of us who read this.
Lois Jennison Tribble02/21/05
Congratulations, Verlie on this well-deserved win! I loved the juxtaposition -- A poignant story, hinged on a turning point with perhaps eternal consequences. Good wake up call for Christians to set aside preoccupations and focus on including the excluded.
Jonita (Jay) Johnson02/21/05
You brought me right into the church. I saw the people gathering with various looks on their faces. All too often this happens in far too many church settings.

I love poker parties too. Congratulations
Sally Hanan02/21/05
Beautifully written.