This August, Henry returned to school with one year of preschool under his belt. Last year, he was in a class of 13 kids. This year, eight of those same kids returned. These are his “old friends.” But there are also 13 new kids in his class – “new friends.”
Before the start of school, we did a lot of talking about these new friends, and how they would need someone to help them know where the toys are, how to do the classroom jobs, and what to do at snack time. This was Henry’s opportunity to be a helper, to be a good friend.
When we are comfortable where we are, we forget what it is like to be the new kid. We go to church and sit on the same row with the same people, find “our” table in the breakroom at work, and hang out with the same handful of comfortable friends. And believe me, I understand. I personally love being comfortable.
But I also know what it’s like to be the new kid.
I know what it’s like to move to a city where I had no friends or family – twice. I know what it’s like to search for a job when I have no local connections on my resume. I remember the feeling of sitting in a very full room and feeling very lonely.
So, here’s the challenge for those of us who are comfortable where we are – actively seek out those who are new, and make them feel welcome. And may I say – ahem – this takes more than just a handshake during the greeting time at church. Invite her (or her family) to lunch after church. Get her number and call her or text her during the week. Invite the new mom to go to the park with you and your kids. Ask the new coworker to chat with you over coffee. Whatever you like to do, chances are they will enjoy it as well.
It’s hard being the new kid, whether you are four or 40. It means so much when someone takes time out of their busy day to make you feel a part of the group.
And if YOU are the new kid? May I tell you something? It will get better. Keep trying. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Keep showing up, even when you would rather stay at home. Eventually, this place will be comfortable too.