Lovely time round the lunch table yesterday with some nice people:
My Curate colleague, her husband and little boy
A couple from Trendlewood church we have got to know
A couple we met at the pub (he) and then when I married them
A couple we met through Alpha then a baptism contact and their little girl
But I think this may be odd behaviour for round here, with some notable exceptions.
A few year's ago a Christian course was published called 'Friendship Evangelism.' I recall remarking at the time that if the only bunch of people who had a specific brief to build relationships with outsiders had to have a course on how to make friends wasn't that a bit of an indictment about how well we were doing after 2,000 years? Maybe it was because I had lived in the Midlands or the north all my life, a dining room table constantly surrounded by people and a kitchen permanently inhabited by someone who had dropped by for tea and a chat.
A fellow church employee, who I supervised, asked me a few years ago, 'Steve, are we friends?' I found it a difficult question. Firstly, if he had to ask, clearly there was some doubt in his mind. Secondly because I operate without a category 'friend' in my head most of the time. I meet people, I behave in a friendly way towards them, I build a relationship. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but until they screw me over I continue to trust them and want to get the relationship better.
I have three or four really close friends and a nice family. Thereafter I don't use the friend word very much.
Regardless of what you mean by 'friend' it has been much harder than I ever thought here in the south-west to gently encourage this attitude of building relationships with outsiders. It simply doesn't come naturally to most people. No-one is unfriendly, but few are lowering the drawbridge.
Is it fear? A couple once told me they would invite me round for a meal when the ensuite bathroom was finished. What a terrible, all-consuming fear it is that people might see us in a state of less than perfection, even in a room there was no chance of my ever going in.
If you want to make friends you have to show everyone your blemishes, make your mistakes in public. When people come round for a meal here sometimes they get asked to peel stuff, stir pans or serve the drinks. They certainly see the last minute cooking panic since the kitchen and dining room are open plan. Clearing up is often a communal event. No-one minds.
I have heard someone describe having guests for a meal as 'outside my comfort zone.' I have been in lounges I think no one else has ever been in. It doesn't even have to be a meal you cooked. 'Let's share a take-away.'
People of Nailsea. Next time you meet the neighbour in the drive why not say 'Would you and Mr(s) neighbour like to come round for a drink and a chat next (name)day?'
For goodness sake, what's the worst that could happen? And I have seen those Dr Pepper ads.