I have taken a few days off of work this week. It’s American Thanksgiving and, in honour of my Midwestern husband, we celebrate the holiday. Brian wants our kids to identify with their American heritage so celebrating these American holidays “in a strange land” are important to him. We are having a friend over (actually a guy who plays for the BC Lions…hmmmm…wonder how he’ll handle all of these Rider fans???) along with my family. I will begin the baking and cooking this afternoon and continue until late tomorrow. It’s a lot of work to sit around and watch people eat and watch football.
I love days off with Anne. Today, we wended our way to our community centre for playtime. In the winter time, the Arenex (so called because it is next to the hockey arena….) opens up the gymnasium for all kids under the age of 4 to run roughshod. There are trampolines, gym mats, toys scattered from top to tea kettle and the general chaos of 45 preschoolers, toddlers and babies playing together.
This type of thing is not easy for me. I am by nature a solitary person. I prefer to speak only when spoken to and rarely like to be the one to put myself “out there”. I don’t need a lot of friends. But because I married Brian (who, as those of you that know him can attest, can make people weep in the grocery store lineup because they finally feel “understood” and can make a bosom friend on the ride up the escalator), I have learned to be more people-friendly. It started about 7 years ago and has had moments of truth. I remember learning that hospitality is actually a Christian practice. Then I had no excuse. Over the years, I’ve learned to open my home, to reach out to others and generally stop being so damn self-absorbed (still learning that one as those of you that know me can attest….). And as we’ve moved forward in our dream of starting a church, we’ve come to the conclusion that it is vitally important that we dwell more deeply in our context, embracing the world and lovely people that are around us as the “dream come true of God”.
But it’s still a big deal for me to walk – by myself – to the Arenex with my 15 month old and just walk in. But I did it! We truly want to live in “community” and not just “stay here”. I hate the thought of going through my life not knowing my neighbours, never making a friend that lives down the street or participating in the life of New West. I was so blessed when we lived in NB as our dearest friends were our next door neighbours – on both sides! – and just across the street. We all went to church together. We’d wander outside in the dark and run into each other, eventually laying out on our driveways to ponder life and the stars and have a beer. We could pop over each other’s homes for an hour without being inconvenienced. It was real community. I’ve desperately missed that ease and so am trying to create that again in my life. It probably won’t ever be the same as that but I’m sure trying.
So Anne and I kicked off our shoes and I got to work. I chatted with dozens of mothers and fathers, grandmas and aunties. We laughed over our kids. I played with their babies. I hopped up on the trampoline and bounced the babies around as they screamed with laughter. I resisted the urge to snatch up my child when another bratty preschooler swiped a toy or hollered “no” at her. I even resisted the urge to sit in the middle of the floor and hum for a bit while rocking back and forth when the noise levels reached rock-star-concert-decibel levels.
And to be honest, I had a great time. I made a few new acquaintances. I met a lady that we’d already chatted with about baby-sitting Anne next semester. She was wonderful and so welcoming. I was exhausted and drained but I had a nice time and we’ll certainly do it again. Brian will likely be the one taking Anne most of the time as I work during the week. But there were a lot of stay-at-home-dads there and it will be nice for Brian to make a few new friends too. He’s such a sociable guy. Whereas I am energised by alone time, he is energised by people.
I lasted a whole hour and a half before finally bundling Anne up and heading home.
Sometimes hospitality can be practiced outside of one’s home. Sometimes we need to welcome others into our life before we can welcome them into our home. This reminds me of the scripture that sagely notes that “to make friends, show yourself friendly”. Common sense scripture!