The One-Person Difference

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The One-Person Difference

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Not so many years ago, my world was changing fast—but I was a teenager, so that was nothing new. That year, my mom and I started driving two hours to attend church in a new city, with mostly people I didn't know. I was so nervous to have to walk into that unfamiliar building, with only vaguely familiar faces and certainly no one I could call a friend. I didn't talk to anyone except the adults that my mom spoke with and the local young people didn't introduce themselves. I was so unsure of myself that I didn't make an effort to meet anyone either. I spent Sabbath after Sabbath without any real contact with people my own age. But that all changed when Davina's family started attending. She was an old pal from summer camp, but we had lost contact. She was a delight to be around because she was funny and sincere, but most of all, she made an unselfish effort to really get to know me and be my friend. While most young people in the congregation seemed content with talking only to their friends, Davina made an effort to include me in the activities of the teens, despite the two-hour travel distance between us. At church, she made a point of coming over to see how I was doing, even though it seemed she already had lots of friends. She even took time to e-mail during the week to make plans for the weekend. I eventually had the opportunity to invite her to a few things as well, and we slowly became good friends. She made an incredible difference in my life, and I know others who say the same. Now, I'm not writing this article because I think I'm very good, or even adequate, at practicing what she did. I write this because I have experienced my world without a truly caring friend, and I've experienced my world with Davina's example. I know that the difference is life-altering. And I know that we either choose to be a positive difference, or we become the negative status quo. There is no middle ground here, because if we say we are doing fine when we are content with having our own needs for friendship met, we ignore that our peers need support from us. We are happy to say "Hi" in passing at church without ever really sharing our lives with them. Commit to making a difference We all need to commit to making a one-person difference in the lives of others. Who knows what lasting friendships may form when we take time to spend with someone we don't already know well? It's very easy to only make an effort to be a friend to those whom we've grown up with or those with whom we feel comfortable. But if we're only looking at our own needs, that's a sign that we may be more selfish than we'd care to admit. And if we're honest with ourselves, we know that a selfish person is a poor friend. Would you want to be friends with yourself? What do you have to offer? Well, you may say, it's all well and good to talk about this in theory, but how am I actually supposed to change the way I've been for my whole life? What if the people I try to be friends with don't respond with enthusiasm? What if they even indicate that they don't want me to be their friend? Hey, I didn't say this would be easy. If it were, don't you think more people would do it? It will take a lot of guts to keep trying to be friendly when you get a noncommittal response. In cases like these, I suggest you "hide" behind the role of organizer or helper to get through the rough spots. In my experience, it is always easier to be working behind-the-scenes and planning than to be standing around wondering what to do with my hands, what to say or what to do without looking like a complete idiot. Especially if you are shy or feel awkward around groups of people, giving yourself something to do will alleviate much stress and help you to eventually relax. One of the greatest strengths that Davina had (and still has) was initiating activities so that, over time, the teens and young adults became better acquainted with one another. If you have Internet access, consider using the free service Evite (www.evite.com) to invite others to play board games, go camping, have a dinner party or any other events. (Or you can send invitations by mail or call or ask people in person.) You can have wonderfully memorable experiences preparing meals together as a group and enjoying them at the home of willing families. If your congregation has a number of teens and if teen studies are not already planned, you could talk with your pastor and offer your home as a place to have youth Bible studies or discussion groups. Take ownership You can take ownership of your church by getting involved in whatever aspects of service are needed. Again, talk with your pastor to see how you can contribute. In your discussion you can offer to help organize teen and young adult events. A good friend of mine claims that you don't really know someone unless you've worked on something together. I think that's pretty accurate. Ask a couple of different people each time to help you with the planning or execution of an event—this will provide more opportunities for friendship along the way. Actually doing a project, or being in a situation where conversation is more important than the entertainment, is much more fulfilling than watching TV or seeing a film together. Even if you don't end up being great friends with everyone (that's impossible)—it's still valuable to provide opportunities for people to get together who may find that they will be great friends. These people we go to church with are our support system. They understand what it's like to be a flawed Christian in this world and can appreciate the struggles that we all go through when trying to live God's way, as well as the colossal mistakes that we sometimes make. They all have great value to God, and they should also have value to us. Though it may not seem like it now, these people will become our family. Christ looked around Him during His life here on earth and said that the believers around Him were His family—His brothers and sisters (Matthew 12:48-50 Matthew 12:48-50 [48] But he answered and said to him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brothers? [49] And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brothers! [50] For whoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
American King James Version×
; Mark 3:35 Mark 3:35For whoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.
American King James Version×
). After many years of not understanding how He could have felt that way, I finally do. Davina was at the very beginning of that change for me. The irony The irony of Davina's situation is that she wasn't really comfortable in that former church either. I didn't know it at the time, but she felt that something was missing. It is remarkable that instead of accepting things as they were with the youth in that congregation, or merely complaining about the situation, she actively did something about it. She wasn't given the luxury of the "Welcome!" that she gave me, but she still had the right attitude and made it better for everyone else. She made a resounding and lasting difference in my life. Because she wanted to serve God and do right, I learned a great deal about what it takes to be a good friend…and how to be a better human being in the process. To this day, we are still good friends, and it just so happens that she also became my sister-in-law. Funny how things work out, isn't it? Make the commitment to make a difference! VT

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