Last month I did something really fun. A few friends and I got up at the crack of dawn to stand in line for a free cup of coffee at “Luke’s Diner.” As part of a nationwide Netflix promotion for the upcoming “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” reunion show, coffee shops across the country transformed into the iconic diner owned by Lorelai Gilmore’s grouchy on-again-off-again love interest, Luke Danes.
As the five of us stood in line, laughing and chattering about our shared love of all things Gilmore, I noticed a young woman standing in line alone behind us. At one point, we asked her to take our picture near the “Luke’s Diner” sign and offered to take hers. “No, thanks,” she said. “My best friend was supposed to come with me but bailed at the last minute. It would be weird to get a picture by myself.”
This is the part of the story where I wish I could tell you that I invited that young woman to be part of our group. The thought definitely occurred to me; in fact, I felt a pretty strong tug to include her. But then the excuses took over. What if there wasn’t room for her at our table? Would it be too awkward? Besides, none of the women with me seemed to have the same idea. So I let the moment pass. We made it into the diner and my group was selected for a special promotional photo for the Netflix website, while the young woman quietly took her cup of coffee and left.
Rethinking My In-Crowd
As I drove home, filled with the warm fuzzies generated by such a fun shared experience, another emotion crowded in: regret. I knew I had blown it. I’d been confronted with a golden opportunity to invite someone into community and instead I hoarded what I had. I wish I could say it was the first time, but I’m a chronic friend hoarder. Ever since college making friends has come easily to me. (As an awkward homeschooled high school student, this wasn’t always the case, with a few exceptions.) I haven’t always shared that abundance with others or been attuned to the outsider, though I know that’s part of my role as a believer — to welcome others into the amazing relationship and family I have found in Christ.
Similar to being part of a clique in high school, it feels great to be liked and included by others. When you’re in that position, it’s easy to just indulge in it instead of being others-oriented and reaching out. But as cheesy as this sounds, if Jesus had been standing in our midst that morning, I’m almost positive He would have been the first one to notice that woman standing alone and welcome her in. I know He wanted to do that through me.
Missed Opportunity… or Revelation?
As I thought about what I could’ve done better and promised myself I would obey that prompting in the future, a different thought occurred to me. Perhaps my experience wasn’t so much about a missed opportunity or even that woman in particular. What transpired, or didn’t, may have had little impact on her. She may have been happy to get her free cup of coffee and head off to work, unhindered by awkward interaction with people she didn’t know. Maybe that moment was more about me realizing what I might be missing out on by staying in my friendship comfort zone. By being a friend hoarder, I not only exclude others — which isn’t good — but I also limit the quality and depth of relationship I could be experiencing.
C.S. Lewis explains the power of “open friendships” in The Four Loves:
In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets… Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend. They can then say, as the blessed souls say in Dante, “Here comes one who will augment our loves.” For in this love to divide is not to take away.
Lewis eloquently describes what can happen when we invite others into our circle, rather than limiting ourselves to what already exists. Each person adds a new dynamic to the relationships already present within the group. I know I’ve experienced the joy of seeing how two friends play off of one another in a way that enriches the group dynamic.
Instead of being that elementary schoolgirl who wants her BFF and no one else, I want to be the one who invites others in and doesn’t hoard the community I’ve found. And as I’m intentional to add people to the group, the benefit I derive from those relationships will actually increase.
Copyright 2016 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.