My move from the fields of central Illinois to the mountains of Colorado has been an adjustment. For a directionally-challenged person like me, learning to navigate the winding, hilly roads is a stark change from the familiarity of the gridded, flat roads of the Midwest. Adjusting to the altitude is proving to be a challenge too; who knew walking and talking simultaneously could be so exhausting? And let’s not forget how dry it is in Colorado; I wake up every morning with chapped lips and a sore throat. It’s a small price to pay, however, compared to the suffocating humidity of summer in Illinois.
But the changes that come with a move go beyond physical changes. The transition to a new state, a new job and a new living situation has introduced me to unique challenges and opportunities that are primarily relational.
I live with a host family who has graciously opened their home to me while I work at Boundless for the summer. Entering another family’s space requires tact, flexibility and grace all around.
At the office, I am constantly working with new people and being thrown into new projects. Collaborating with coworkers requires patience, confidence and lots of listening.
I am one of 31 interns, also known as potential friends. Creating relationships with new peers requires vulnerability, boldness and a mutual desire for connection.
A lifetime of moves
This isn’t the first time I have experienced the challenges that come with a move. Back in middle school, I moved to a new town. As a shy adolescent, one of the first things I learned was that people are not quick to reach out to the new kid in town, no matter how old that new kid might be. Everyone from my mom to my six-year-old brother had to be assertive and outgoing. We were constantly introducing ourselves, inviting people over and showing up at events in hopes of finding friends in a new place.
And then there was college. As an 18-year-old thrown into a pool of hundreds of other 18-year-olds all trying to seem cool and likeable, the process of creating genuine relationships proved to be arduous. Some of my nearest and dearest friends didn’t show up on my radar until months into the school year.
The importance of change
Despite the exhausting dynamics, I can’t help but be thankful for the moves I have made. Remaining in the same place surrounded by the same people is comfortable, but it can lead to complacency. Without the jarring change that comes with a move, it’s easy to stick with the same old friends and the same old habits. Moving to a new place and being surrounded by new people shakes up routine like nothing else.
Thanks to my middle school move, I gained confidence. Thanks to my college move, I learned the importance of genuineness. And thanks to my most recent move, I am stepping out on my own into the adult world.
Learning empathy and hospitality
Perhaps most importantly, my experiences of being “the new kid” have increased my empathy exponentially. The feeling of being out of place has opened my eyes to see others who feel out of place. I am more inclined to be hospitable because I know the relief and joy that it is to be welcomed.
Sometimes I wonder what it was like for Jesus to be the new kid. When He was living in Egypt, when He moved back to Nazareth and when He began his traveling ministry — what was it like? Did He ever feel out of place or lonely?
Though Jesus was often the “new kid in town,” He perfectly modeled empathy and hospitality. He didn’t wait until he was a “townie” to reach out to others. Wherever He went, He found the tax collectors, the sinners, the unclean and the poor. He was drawn to those who were out of place.
With my 20s before me, I anticipate that I’ll be the new kid many more times. Just as I learned when I was 12, waiting for others to seek out your company is a slow and ineffective means of creating community. Offering empathy and hospitality are not put on hold just because I want to be on the receiving end. Per Jesus’ example, I want to seek out those who, like me, are feeling a little out of place.
In what ways have you grown through your seasons of being the new kid in town? How has the experience shaped the way you view and treat others?
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