"And if in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside: that you are indeed snug and safe at the centre of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that the secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric: for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things that they like. This is friendship. Aristotle placed it among the virtues. It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ring can ever have it."- C.S. Lewis
Long gangly arms, a 5'3 frame, and size ten feet in 3rd grade. I looked like I should have been a 5th or 6th grader. My hair had one of those strange perms that seemed to be all the rage in the 1980's. My best friend was in a different class than I was. This was the year I found out what it meant to be a target, what it meant to be bullied, what it felt like to be on the outside. If I am asked which year was my worst year in school the answer comes easily--3rd grade tops the list of worst year ever. Gina was short (at least compared to me), she had all the girls as friends (except me), and she chose me as her target. I think my third grade teacher knew this, she was gracious enough not to let it happen in class, but the playground was free reign for the little bully who saw it as her one joy to taunt my looks and smarts, and leave me playing by myself on the jungle gym. How I hated that year, even though I adored my third grade teacher.
I walked in, babe-in-arms, and made my way to the counter. For the first time, a neighbor saw me. I mean, really saw me. Greeted me and said hello and chatted for a bit. The postmaster looked at my letter and said, "You aren't J so you must be Itty-Bitty," naming my baby and remembering my husband's first name. I may have walked calmly to my car, but my heart was skipping. See, I've found this community to be difficult to make friends in. We've made the changes needed to put ourselves here and not in the bigger city 40 minutes away. We've tried to know our neighbors.
I come home and bubble giddiness all over my husband. "Well," he says,"the postmaster should know us since we've had our mail put on hold more than once for trips and overseas visits." "It's not just that," I say, "She remembered our names, and faces." It is a small step for me.
In the local grocery I see a gal who knows me. She's the teller from our local bank, she chats and is friendly. My heart, it needs this medicine. It needs this sense of community that I've so missed after leaving a place with long established friendships. This beauty, the sense of being welcome after one has been on the outside for so long. Thank you, Lord.
The little girl in me remembers I am not who they said I was in 3rd grade, I have worth, I have value, and I am deeply treasured by the One who loves me. I have a husband who loves me, and adores that I am tall. (Who'd have ever thought?) A friend once told me to be who I was, and that was enough. Friendship, after all, isn't forced. It is a gift.
(On a side note:C.S. Lewis has an essay about the outside (found here), he calls it the 'inner ring'. He explains how everyone wants to feel like they belong somewhere on the inside of a group. And to some certain extent that is true. The desire of the heart is for some kind of community. )