Remember being new?
This last month I’ve been getting used to being the ‘newbie’ around the place here in Cambridge.
So far my aim has been to embrace the local area, be present at our new church, go to anything I’m invited to, try out as much as possible and give things a go.
During the week, with a toddler, that mostly looks like going to groups – be it messy groups, play groups, music groups, church groups, noisy groups – whatever we can find! It’s been a lot of fun and gradually I’m beginning to work out my rhythms and how my week will look with Beatrice at home.
As I’ve got stuck in it’s been so interesting being the new one. I’ve suddenly had a perspective that I’ve not had since arriving in sheffield as a new student 11 years ago.
So it’s taken me by surprise a little at how vulnerable it can feel walking into a room where you know no one and don’t know how it works or what’s happening. It’s actually quite daunting!!
For the first time in a decade I was the new face at church! A very odd experience – I had to locate the toilets, work out the crèche, get to grips with the format of the service and find a seat!! (Where do you sit when you’re new?!)
Luckily I’m an extrovert and when it comes to meeting new people I’m reasonably happy and confident to lead the way, introduce myself, say hi to someone I don’t know and make small talk.
But isn’t it interesting that at every toddler group I’ve attended near to nobody has actually approached me or initiated conversation with me (bar the lady taking the money at the door!)
Pretty much every person I’ve spoken to I have had to approach – and I’m the new one!!
If I was a shy and unconfident sort I don’t think I would have spoken to many people at all!
It’s made me think – how easy it is to be missed in a crowd, to not be spotted or recognised as the new ones, to not be spoken to or made to feel welcome. And it’s made me think of all the times I’ve probably failed to greet or welcome someone new because I’ve been too busy being ‘important’ or doing my own thing with ‘my people’.
I’m not blaming anyone and I’m pretty sure everyone at the groups I’ve been to would be happy to chat to me. Everyone I’ve started conversations with have in fact been really very lovely.
But I think when you’ve been somewhere for a long time and you know the ropes, when you’ve got your group of friends and you have no need to make new ones really, it’s so easy to ignore those that might be new in our midst.
Even as Christians in church I think we can so easily be engrossed with our own stuff, ‘important’ role/job and our own friendship group that we forget to look beyond ourselves and fix our eyes elsewhere. And it’s so important that it’s not just the leaders, staff and welcome team that ‘do that job’.
Every now and again I’d encourage you to think back and remember how you felt last time you were the newcomer. Remember how daunting that felt. Whether you’re at church, a toddler group, a social club, your local dance class, look around and spot someone you don’t know and be brave to go speak to them!! It’s a challenge I’m keen to take up, in all sorts of situations. Even a simple hello and a smile is a start! Honestly it could be the most loving welcoming thing you do. I think it’s what Jesus would like us to do – he was a welcoming kind of guy.
Posted by Lizzie