Over the summer, I had a conversation with someone I knew well in college. She was my suite-mate for two years and we shared more than one friend group by being in the same organizations.
We met for coffee and reminisced about the college days and what is going on now. It was fascinating to hear her comments of who I was, how I lived, and what she observed as an outsider. As we became friends in college, she gained a broader perspective of doing life with a disability. I was different back then. I didn’t realize I was giving people a glimpse into something so new. At the time, I hadn’t wrestled with disability, asked hard questions, or accepted that God wanted me to share my story in order to speak up, advocate, break barriers for myself and others. Nope. I just wanted to be a normal college student. And I was.
This friend told me, “You didn’t simply ask for help. If you wanted to do something, if you had an adventure in mind, you invited people into the experience.”
I said, “That’s true…Needing help or physical assistance was like a side note.”
She continued, “You did a good job including yourself. You made yourself a part of the community. And you made others feel comfortable around you.”
I listened and thought, “Wow. I’m glad she saw and felt like I welcomed people into my world well during college.” I guess I have always done that, but as an adult I have embraced it even more.
One of my favorite things is inviting people in.
Into my home.
Twice in the past year I have hosted friends for a dinner party. I love cooking, but I can’t do it alone. The event turns into a night of fellowship. And team work. At least one person arrives early to help. They are my hands, preparing the meal as I give directions. Others jump in to serve, stir, stack up dishes, or stay later.
I invite people to my table just as God invites us to His table. Whatever season it is, we celebrate.
The food before us.
The friends around us.
The fruit of God working in us.
As we share a meal or simply spend time with the people in our lives, conversations flow. Sometimes we have the chance to dig deeper into a topic.
A few months ago, a friend started one of these conversations. I didn’t realize new friends had been hesitant to ask me questions related to disability. I hadn’t known them long enough to share details or point them to my blog, where I have a series of posts to answer what new friends often wonder. They were afraid of offending me or saying the wrong thing. They didn’t know I am open to having an ongoing dialogue. Until that night. Five of us sat around and had an honest talk. Like I did in college, I tried my best to make my friends feel comfortable while I welcomed them more into my world.
We broke through invisible barriers with our words.
We conquered what we thought were differences.
Our conversations led us to connect in our humanity.
When we invite people in, life becomes richer and more meaningful for everyone. Community is built around shared experiences over time.
God made us to be in relationship with each other. He designed us to do life together. We might have to take a step towards a new friend. Maybe someone will reach out to us. Who goes first doesn’t matter. As we invite, we love our neighbors and extend a sense of belonging. We are the Body of Christ. I am one part. You are one part.
Let’s be His Church in this world.
Let’s love hard, live deeply.
Let’s invite people in.
Who can you invite to your table next?
“A new command I give you: Love one another.
As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:34-35 (NIV)