I was the student in the back of the lecture hall who never raised her hand, who waited for someone else to ask the question, who thought others knew what they were doing when she was confused or lost. I didn’t dress to stand out. I didn’t take up a lot of space with my body or voice. I didn’t want to bring unnecessary attention to myself or speak only to then prove myself to be incompetent. I saw myself as someone who should blend into the background, so I cruised under the radar of being seen and known and cloaked myself with the pretense of not caring whether or not I made new friends.
But it was just that — it was pretend because I did care. I wanted to be seen, to be known, to belong. I wanted to feel confident enough in myself, to not be awkward and be relaxed in a crowd. I wanted to be able to reach beyond my regular group of friends, but it felt unsafe to break out of my comfort zone. Why put myself out there when I have friends who already love me and like me?
So, I closed my arms tightly around myself and the community I already had and stayed where I felt safe without thinking to create a safe place for myself and others.
I remember those days now that my kids are in school. I tell them to be kind to their classmates, to look for the ones who may look lonely or alone, and to invite others to play with them even when they have a best friend they always want to play with. I teach them these things because we can be prone to draw tight circles around ourselves with only the people we like and choose what’s comfortable or best only for ourselves without thinking of the other.
I want them to be unlike me in many ways. I want them to learn earlier on that being available and intentional in community is a lifelong lesson they can carry with them but also one that can be practiced everyday while they’re at school.
But what I wasn’t expecting was for the lesson I was teaching them to bounce back at me.
My kindergartener’s teacher asked me to be the room mom for her class, and for days I hemmed and hawed because I didn’t know if I wanted that kind of responsibility or that kind of visibility with the other parents. I would’ve been happy to simply blend in with the other parents instead of leading the charge.
But the teacher was kind in her persistence and spelled out her expectations clearly. I would be sharing the load with another mom, which made everything seem light and doable.
As I sat down to write the first email introducing myself to all the parents, it hit me how I’m not simply doing a favor for the teacher. I won’t simply be in charge of crafts and parties and making copies. I’ll have the opportunity to reach out and create a space for the parents to land softly. I’ll have the chance to extend my arms and my boundary lines to include each parent but especially those who are new. I’ll carry the important weight of seeing others, hearing them when needed, and linking arms with them to co-create an environment of welcome and warmth for our kids.
Choosing to create community doesn’t only apply to the church. It should expand into every other area of our lives as well. Instead of sticking to the small circles we’re a part of or instead of standing on the outside looking in, hoping for someone to see us, we can be the ones to see first, to extend ourselves and draw new lines around who we’re calling our community.
Lord, help us to have the eyes to see, to have the heart to reach out, and to break out of our comfort zones so we can be community for those who are lonely and alone, for those who need a friend or a outstretched hand. We want to be like You and love like You do. May your expansive, ever-reaching love wreck us every time we try to close our circles tighter instead of wider. In Your gracious name we pray, amen.
God, may your expansive, ever-reaching love wreck us every time we try to close our circles tighter instead of wider. -@gracepcho: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
This line in your prayer hit me: “We want to be like You and love like You do. ” I can blab on til the cows come home about God’s love for another, but actions speak much louder than words. Jesus spent more time showing love than just talking about it. Jesus was the flesh covering over what defines God – love. In order to be Jesus’ hands and feet in this world, I need to step outside my comfy circle and be vulnerable. Vulnerability is scary, but look what there is to gain. When we widen and expand the circle here on earth, we potentially widen and expand the community in heaven. Way to go room mom!
Grace P. Cho says
Thanks for cheering me on, Bev!
Michele Morin says
We exand the circumference of our hearts when we invite more people into our circle. And in doing so, we put on display the love of God which is always reaching out in welcome!
Blessings to you, Room Mom! My husband is a teacher and recently moved to a new school system with no room parents, and he feels as if he’s lost an arm!
Grace P. Cho says
Yes! I love that — we expand the circumference of our hearts.
you are right about reaching out to build community. I have been both in life.. I have been a bible class teacher weekly that reached out to many parents building a community but also I’ve been the person who pulled away to myself.
it takes real inner strength to build community but that’s exactly what Jesus did as he travelled spreading his ministry !
Grace P. Cho says
It does. It’s not easy and it won’t always be quick, but we can do it!
Theresa Boedeker says
In my school days I was the same kind of student as you. Afraid to speak or take up room. Thankfully God helped me join in and be in community. Yes, we need to be aware of the circles we draw and include others. Always. More people are looking and wanting to be included than we think.
Beth Williams says
God made us for community. He expects us to include others in our activities. We should never exclude anyone for any reason. This country is becoming kind of inclusive. People only getting together with their own kind. Not sure if they are afraid of other races or just prejudiced. God sure isn’t. He loves everyone & wants us to do the same. Talking about love is easy. We need to do the hard work of showing God’s love to this sinful world. Our actions speak volumes. People are watching us-especially our children. We should model community every chance we get. Show/teach them to include the newbie & others of various races. Let’s put bigotry & racism aside & start modeling God’s love in community. I try to do that by encouraging others at work. Often say thank you to cleaning crew, stockers & CNAs for the job they are doing. May God bless your efforts Room Mom!~