Sunday, April 7, 2013

Everyone Welcome

To my son Tommy,

I wonder what makes a person feel welcomed.  I wonder how two very similar people can go into the same situation and one gets that welcomed feeling and one feels like an outsider.  Is there some magic formula to make sure everyone feels welcomed?

These thoughts were foremost in my mind after church today.  Many many people use the "I just don't feel welcomed" excuse for not going to church.  It is tough to argue with that logic because you have to be careful not to invalidate how someone feels or to blame someone for not trying.  Both of those paths will lead to hurt feelings and defensive dig in to their position.  Instead you have to gently point out that they are looking for welcome from people and though that sure helps going to church is not about your relationship between you and other members.  Looking for this approval is more of a worldly comfort.  Going to church is between you and God, no one else.  A strong welcoming community is a plus and makes it easier and more enjoyable but not a necessity.

After mass today was a donut and coffee social.  Despite the stories to the contrary from my college or bar tending days, I am an introvert by nature.  I am also more of an outsider who came in to this area just over four years ago when I married your mom at St Agnes.  Many of the people have been together for decades or more and are well established in their relationships.  I am used to this scenario because I grew up as an army brat.  When I would attend a local school that wasn't DoD (Department of Defense) and thus not filled with army brats in the same boat, I had to deal with breaking through the comfort zone of others to find my niche.  I have made some headway and some friends in the parish but it takes time.  A few hellos here and there and slowly you receive that hi back and some conversation and you can see the light go on as people begin to actually recognize and place you.  The trick is you have to make the effort to make it easy for people to welcome you and you have to give them time and multiple opportunities.  Luckily going to church isn't about that and you are welcomed there no matter who you know or who knows you.  A rock group named Tesla had some lyrics that are fitting "The sign said everyone is welcome, come in, kneel down, and pray."

Then on other hand we have the extrovert, aka you.  You feel welcomed no matter what and walk right up to people.  You see someone your size and you are off running and playing.  It happened today and it happened yesterday.  Within minutes you find a friend or twenty.  You have no judgement in your heart and you accept people as your friends even if they don't necessarily return that acceptance.  Even adults are easy for you to approach.  I guess you look at it like "Hey we are are all here because of the same reason so we have something in common" and you have no fear of rejection or fear of embarrassment.  All of those fears that hold people back from truly connecting and truly welcoming one another, all those excuses on both sides of the situation, the inability to step out of a comfort zone and approach a stranger and introduce yourself,  all those things are adult things.  It is clear to me now that part of my challenge as a father is to not let those stupid adult hang ups corrupt your world in the slightest.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

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