I’ve made some awkward introductions in the past:
“I wanna know everything about you.”
“I haven’t seen you before. Do your kids go here? How many? How old are they? What’s your name?” when the poor mom was just trying to get her kids to her car.
“You’re welcome to feed your baby at our study!” to a woman that was not breastfeeding her child.
These are the ones that come to mind, but I am sure there are many, many others I’m forgetting. I’m the queen of awkward.
Here’s the thing, though. I still remain friends with all of these people, despite the awkward introductions. Not creepy stalker-type friendships, as the intros may imply (oops), but authentic, growing, and supportive friendships. Friends that are in the trenches with me, that laugh with me at stupid high school movies I love, that will drop anything to lend a hand.
We were made for community, but you can’t start a community without a hello.
If we’re not starting the conversation to meet strangers, however awkward it may be, then we have to be content being cooped up at home in our bubble. And for me, that’s a hard no.
But why is saying hello so hard sometimes?
There were three times in my life when building community felt like an impossible undertaking and saying hello didn’t come easy.
The first was in middle school when, like 99% percent of the population, puberty had me reeled in self-doubt and self-consciousness.
The second was my first year of college after I had moved 16 hours from home and knew a total of one person on campus.
The third was when I returned to my job after eight months away in hospitals and therapy and felt like I was stumbling to relearn and rediscover myself in a way.
I’ve never been lacking confidence as this childhood picture verifies, but these three situations made it particularly hard to come out of my shell, to build new communities, and to reclaim the confidence to say hello again.
Maybe for you, it’s a job change or a move, but we all go through those spots in life when we have to rebuild.
Here’s the thing we have to remind ourselves when we are in these situations and begin to doubt our ability to start a conversation with a stranger or even our worth as a friend:
What’s the worst that can happen if we say hello and introduce ourselves?
While recognizing this is what they teach Kindergartners as they learn social skills, I honestly feel like we need to remind ourselves to be big kids, make eye contact, get our noses out of our phones, and say hello sometimes. Remind ourselves that it’s not actually that scary.
I mean, really. Let’s say, worst case scenario, you introduce yourself to a new coworker, school parent, or neighbor that gives you the stank eye because you didn’t lead with the right connection or most clever line. What was lost there? Absolutely nothing.
On the other hand, let’s say you really hit it off. Let’s say you are long lost soul sisters (or brothers) that make each other fall over in silent laughter everytime you hang or that encourage or challenge each other in a way you didn’t even know you needed.
You would have never known this if you wouldn’t have risked the stank eye.
In my lonely situations, when I was bold enough to truck through them and remember Kindergarten social skills; when I got involved, hung in other people’s dorm rooms, or remembered to invite people into my life, my communities began to grow again.
And when you hit a hard spot and need someone by your side, someone standing in the fire with you, let me assure you there’s no better gift than a faithful friend. After Job had lost his entire family, land, home, and health, his three friends responded.
“When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him” -Job 2:11
These are the types of friendships that we all need. The type of friends that fly across the country to see you when you’re in the hospital. The type of friends that are 100 percent worth the awkwardness.
When I take my girls to the park, they walk up to random kids and say, “Hi, want to play?”
It really can be that simple.
Let’s have patience with awkward beginnings and recognize that, as in all things, growing solid friendships and communities takes time.
What is your most awkward introduction that turned into a friendship? How have you trucked on through those times or situations in your life when you felt isolated?
I’d love to hear from you!