We have some friends over regularly. The kind of friends where you don't worry about whether you've gotten the kitchen cleaned up before you sit down to eat or if the kids ask to sit on their lap before they have cleaned their plates. I usually make carnitas and we sit around the table shoving our faces full of tasty pork and toppings while we discuss work and family and vacations.
That friendship is precious and deep and it's lasted almost ten years. And it all started one day in college.
I can still picture the office where I stood by the printer filling out my timesheet. I tutored in the Academic Resource Center at our college for scholarship requirements and for workstudy money and I was there a lot. A girl I barely knew struck up a conversation about the Resident Assistant interviews we had both participated in the day before.
That day I didn't know what we were starting. I didn't know that we would stand in each other's weddings. I didn't know that they would sit with us in the NICU watching our son battle for his life. I didn't know that we would share meal after meal, dreams for our futures, spots in crowds at graduations and ceremonies and fireworks. I didn't know that we would start yearly traditions of collegiate volleyball games, vacations at the beach, or summertime swimming in their pool.
Of course I have other friendships and I don't remember their definite beginning. It was just one interaction after another. While I can't see the outcome I do know that I'm better every time I step outside myself. When I leave the black hole of "What will they think of me?" and instead ask, "What do they need?" I shift the focus from me to them. It's not an easy thing to walk up to someone new. To go to someone who might think you are strange, someone who might be a little quirky themselves and put your hand out. I've been burned doing this. There have been people who have entered my life and it didn't work out well. But I'm still better for having done it.
Friends aren't going to drop in our laps. If we want friends we have to be friendly. And to find those close friends we are going to have be friendly to a lot of people. But beyond ourselves and finding new friendships, you've been the new person. Isn't life easier when someone steps up and introduces herself? When you have a face and a name and a number to text in a new city? When you have someone to bring you food after you have a baby? When you have someone to go with you to that doctor's appointment or college graduation? Be that person for someone else where you are.
I've been places where I've felt excluded. Sometimes I'm still not sure where I fit in, what my "group" is. While that used to bother me I'm learning that it's a valuable part of my life. Instead of having my group I'm talking to this person and then popping over to ask this woman about her sick kid, her aging parents, her brother that's in jail. My circle widens as I care about others and their lives instead of just my own.
It all starts with, "Hi, my name is Lisa." I don't have to have a speech or a witty saying or an impressive fact about myself. A simple "Hi, what's your name?" works fine.