For months, I've been wanting to get to know my neighbors better. We've been on friendly terms since we moved in back at the end of August. We smile and nod and say hi when we pass each other on the shared driveway, and we've had a few short conversations on those rare occasions when we're both outside at the same time... But even though it's not entirely obvious to the general public (I try very hard to hide it), I'm kind of terrified of people. I can't even call my closest friends on the phone (or even my own parents!!) without first doing some serious deep breathing to calm the pulse-racing, palms-sweating, near-panic attack that always hits when I think about talking to someone who didn't seek me out. So even though I was pretty sure we'd get along well, I could never bring myself to strike up a real conversation.
But this morning, I sat in church and listened to the speaker talk about how important it is to forge connections with those around us. He challenged us to set aside our fears and invite our friends and neighbors to do things with us more often. And I remembered that my husband had signed us up to host a few families from our congregation for a dessert potluck this evening. I thought, maybe this would be a good chance to invite the neighbors over. But then that familiar fear started and I nearly talked myself out of it. Because what if they didn't want to spend time with me? What if they think I'm weird? What if months of slightly anti-social behavior made them think I was too prickly to be friends with?
But then my youngest daughter cuddled up into me, and I realized I had the perfect excuse to start a conversation with the neighbors!
In the past few weeks, the little neighbor girl has decided that she really enjoys playing outside with my two youngest daughters. She's been coming over almost every day to ask if "the big kids" can come out and play after school. I could totally use my daughters as an excuse to invite the whole family over! "The girls wanted to spend time with their friend" is a lot less scary than admitting "I was hoping you would like to be my friend."
Ironically, all 4 of the other families invited for the potluck cancelled at the last minute, so in the end, it was just us and our neighbors. And we had a lovely conversation that wasn't even the tiniest bit awkward or uncomfortable. I even forgot to be nervous! I wish I'd found the courage to get to know the neighbors sooner, but I'm so glad I followed this little girl's example and the wise counsel of my church leaders and took a chance to invite them over.
Isn't it amazing how easily children can make friends? They rarely spend hours, days, weeks or months agonizing over whether or not someone might accept their invitations to play. They see someone that looks interesting and take a chance. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the rest of us could follow that example more often?