As far as my memory can take me, I have loved friendships. Mom used to tell me that as a three or four year old, I used to hang on the garden gate waiting for Karen, the little girl across the street, to come home, hoping for a chance to play with her. This might have begun in my mother’s womb, as I shared it with my twin brother Andy.
Before I began second grade my parents moved into a neighborhood where I grew up and lived until I graduated from high school. There were lots of children to run and play with providing an ideal place for my two brothers, sister and myself to flourish. The very next year however, my third grade year, provided me with an early life lesson – the lesson of inclusion.
One of my classmates, whom I adored, had a very large birthday party. It seems like just about everyone was invited. We were such fast friends our classroom teacher had to separate us because we spent so much time talking. As you might imagine, I was completely devastated when I learned of her party and who all was invited, then came to the realization that I was excluded.
- Am I not pretty enough?
- Am I not good enough?
- Am I not fun to be around?
- Do I not have enough?
And so many more thoughts swirled around my head. As early as third grade, I learned I wanted to be inclusive, not exclusive.
Christine was my best friend practically from the day we moved into that neighborhood and remains so to this day. She was invited to that birthday party but knew that I wasn’t. She made a choice that has also taught me another very valuable lesson – the lesson of loyalty. She declined the invitation to the party and invited me to the movies. On the very day of the party we went to see the movie, One Hundred and One Dalmatians.
This all happened about 60 years ago.
Do you find it kind of amazing that I can remember these details even down to the movie we went to see?
What that tells me is, by being excluded from the party was so terribly hurtful, and Christine’s loyalty was so loving, I never could or would want to forget how I felt. I decided early on that I would never want to leave someone out and that I wanted to be the kind of friend Christine was to me.
Over the years I have given many bridal and baby showers. My husband and I have hosted super bowl parties, New Year’s Eve parties, all kinds of gatherings. For large groups I would sometimes fear I didn’t have enough room, but time after time I was shown that it all works out.
There are times when I know someone is or will be out of town when my event takes place, but I still want that person to know they were included. I always feel special when I am on the receiving end of an invitation. And let me just say, special is not the feeling I had when I was left out.
Now I know there are times when there are limits. For instance, a dinner party can get a little noisy with eight people and certainly with ten, several conversations may break out and you can come away feeling like it maybe wasn’t real quality time. Sometimes there is an activity where you are only able to invite eight or ten. Most often we aren’t limited and whenever possible, my rule of thumb is include – don’t exclude.
Let’s not go through life being the red line through someone else’s life.
Let’s be the open arms of Jesus reaching out to others, inviting and not excluding.
Anne Miller is TableThink’s columnist for Your Tribe. Anne’s writing takes us home, reminding us of what really matters. She invites you to the TableThink tribe . . . and to know it’s . . . Your Tribe.
Anne invites us: “I hope you will feel inspired to connect, reconnect, or get to know someone in your community, realizing it is not about entertaining – holding the attention of – it is about “being” together, sharing life and relationship.”