The church I grew up in had a lot of rules. One of their basic tenets was “come ye out from among them and be ye separate”. That meant, “Do not have anything to do with anyone who does not go to this church”. Therefore, I could not attend school functions or play with the neighbor children. They were going to hell.
Little did I realize that my reputation was totally tied to my attendance at that church. Years later, at a high school reunion, I discovered that the people who went there were viewed as arrogant and elitist…including me.
During the years of my first marriage, my duty was to be in my house…cleaning, cooking and taking care of the children. No friends were allowed. Only after my first husband left me, did I come to understand that my neighbors thought I had mental issues because I wasn’t social. They didn’t realize they were going to hell and I had to stay away so I wouldn’t be dragged there with them.
Then came my years of discovery and liberation. Such a relief and sense of freedom.
And so began my pursuit of social skills. There were people everywhere. If you talked to them, most of them would respond. And they weren’t evil.
I now attend a wonderful church. There is a core group of people who arrive every Sunday. But our goal is to see new faces…more and more of them…each time our doors are open. We don’t want them to stay away. Hopefully, we have a reputation as a warm and welcoming church. I have made good friends there.
I know my neighbors. Their children talk to me over the fence as I work in the yard. I love it. More friends.
At work I interact with people I know are not Christians. I’m there for a reason. So they can see Christ. I can’t show them that by shutting them out. More friends.
The places of business I enter on a regular basis, such as my bank, employ people who I call by their first name (including the President). They may or may not be a Christian, but that cannot be an issue in whether I reach out to them. They’ve become my friends. For my 65th birthday, I received a card signed by all of them.
When my husband, John, and I first starting going to Starbucks, we would stand in line and see the group gathered in the corner, laughing and talking. John and I sat at a table, carrying on our conversation…wondering what that group represented.
Then one day, we were sitting close enough to hear the conversation. One of the questions was directed to us. That is how it began. We became a part of that group in the corner, laughing and talking. Slowly, we learned their names, their occupations and what they loved in life…mostly motorcycles…and cars.
This past Thanksgiving, we were invited to one of their cabins in the mountains to spend the day with their family…eating and laughing and playing in the snow. When we had a problem with a trio of skunks making a home under our deck, one of the “gang” brought over his traps and carried them off one at a time.
We celebrate each other’s birthdays…and we care when one of the “gang” has a medical problem. It’s like an extended family. This group is a mix of people who have gravitated together over a period of time.
It’s delightful to drive to Starbucks on a Saturday morning, buy our drinks, and then join the “Starbucks Gang” for a time of discussion…about anything and almost everything. The guy who works for the city can tell us what is being built across the street. The lady who works for the telephone company can give us an answer to a question about phone lines. Some of them pour concrete and some of them come dressed in suits and ties and are lawyers.
Since I moved from oppression to freedom, I’ve discovered many things. I’ve learned there are good people everywhere. People who love life and care about the kinds of things I care about. Yes, I’ve met a few of the bad ones…and I’ve been taken advantage of. But that does not distort my outlook on life. Not when I can have a delicious flavored steamer (I don’t like coffee) as I visit with the ‘Starbucks Gang”.
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