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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Home Group (11/29/07)

TITLE: A Comfortable Place To Be
By Marita Vandertogt


A Comfortable Place to Be

“I’m sorry,” she said to the group. She sat on the chair, her feet flat in front of her, pulling at tiny cat hairs trapped in the weave of her sweater. Her eyes were down, focusing on her task. “But you see,” she kept on talking with a voice barely audible in the circle. Everyone sat not moving, waiting to hear the next words that would come out of the young woman’s mouth. Gabby was new to the group, and didn’t speak much. She’d taken a chair beside Raymond the optometrist and his girlfriend Rachael. Raymond sat with his arm around Rachael’s shoulder, his body turned in toward her in a possessive curve. The chair on the other side of Gabby stayed empty and she felt awkward, exposed.

“I’m sorry,” she started to say again. “I see here that you want people to sign the list to host small group.” The corners of her mouth turned slightly up, not quite a smile. “Well,” she said again. “I’d be happy to do so, but, well, my place.” Her voice started to trail. Her house was very, very small, she went on to explain. In fact, it wasn’t a house at all. It was a tiny apartment, attached to the back of a house.

“Hey, no problem.” Susan walked over to Gabby and put her hands on her shoulders, the shine of a diamond catching Gabby’s eye. “No pressure. Maybe you can sign up to help someone else host theirs.” With that, Susan took the paper from Gabby’s hand and passed it along.

The talking in the room started up again as tiny spoons tinged against china cups. “Looking at some property a few miles out of town. We’re planning on building a cottage next summer so I can bbq by real water instead of the pool.” The voice was booming, the man tall, his face round, leather shoes shiny against the carpeted floor.

“Hey, we just sold ours. To the kids. Too much hassle. We travel too much anyway to get any use out of it.” Words like this flowed around the room. Gabby smiled and nodded when the conversation crossed her way. There wasn’t much to say, so she kept taking sips of coffee to fill in the awkward moments.

“And what do you dear?” One of the women walked over to her. “We don’t know much about you.” Her voice was soft, almost caring in its inflection. “Well, right now I’m kind of between jobs,” Gabby explained, her cheeks flushing, again picking at the threads in her sweater.
“Well, maybe we can pray that something will come along for you. Remind us at prayer time,” she said, and rejoined the voices of laughing chatter. The study started, but Gabby couldn’t concentrate. She kept shifting her body back and forth in the chair, checking her watch. Besides, she hadn’t brought a Bible, didn’t own one.

At the end of the evening, Gabby walked quietly to the closet in the hallway with the rest of the members, talking back and forth to each other, and slipped past a few people to find her coat. She tugged it around her, the frayed collar more noticeable now to her own eyes. She excused herself to Susan, nodded her head in the direction of the other members, and let herself out. “Good night dear,” someone called through to door toward her. “Safe drive now, and hope to see you next week.”

Once outside, Gabby felt the familiar pain of comparison as she jiggled the key into the lock of her rusting K car. “Well God,” she said to the night air. “Guess I don’t fit here either. These people have so much, and I always end up feeling like I should apologize for what I wear, where I live.”

Gabby missed the next four sessions of small group and eventually stopped coming altogether.

Besides, she had a more comfortable place to be now, as she tossed money on the tray for another beer. “Hey Gabs, how’s it going?” a voice called from across the table. Gabby smiled and poked a finger into the white froth of her drink, enjoying the laughter of the people around her. “Not so bad,” she said, blowing the foam from her finger. “Not so bad.”

Meanwhile across town, the small group continued to meet.

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This article has been read 832 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Verna Cole Mitchell 12/06/07
This sad story is told so well with excellent descriptions.
Angie Schulte12/07/07
A sad message, but so true. Oftentimes, we leave people alone when they are physically right there with us. Then we are surprised when they hurt themselves or others. A story to think about. Thank you!
Joanne Sher 12/07/07
Biting, powerful, and thought-provoking. A strong piece.
janet rubin12/07/07
So sad. So true. We can easily do this to people even when we don't mean to.
Sheri Gordon12/07/07
Ouch. A very powerful message without being preachy. Very good writing. I like that this was such a simple story, with so much packed in. Great job with the topic.
Laury Hubrich 12/09/07
This is a very sad commentary on how cliques continue to plague our churches and small groups. Very well written story.
Temple Miller12/09/07
How sad. Probably happens more than we know. Good characterizations!
Jan Ackerson 12/10/07
This just broke my heart--the worst of it is, those people were "nice" to her--probably thought they were being good Christians. This one really jabbed me.

Perfect--but sad, sad, sad--ending.
Patty Wysong12/10/07
You didn't pull your punches with this piece--ouch. There are times when we all need to stop and really look at how we're doing, and this makes us do that. Great descriptions and character development.
Holly Westefeld12/11/07
While I am usually more prone to like happy endings, this one captured my heart. It reminds us all not to see who's there, but who's not, and to reach out to them, and, of course, to make the Lord first, and our stuff fade in to the background.
Marita Thelander 12/15/07
So true to form of a lot of "attempts" by churches to get to know each other outside the pew. Sometimes we need to see a not-so-happy ending to wake us up. btw...we have the same first name. Hello, Marita!