No matter who you are, what kind of family you are from, what your bank account holds, your age, or your education, we all have shared one common experience — walking into a classroom, a sanctuary or a party and not knowing a single, solitary soul. This experience brings with it a sense of fear. You wonder: what is an appropriate amount of time to stay before making a mad dash to the exit. You wonder: if it’s okay to eat from the table yet or to wait for others to start. There’s a fear of small talk and chitchat. And woe of woes, a fear of standing in a room full of strangers with a little clear plate full of tiny appetizers and miniature ham sandwiches, trying not to spill anything on yourself.
We’ve all been in situations like this. Hoping someone will come up and say, “Hi, I don’t recognize you and I am normal. Let’s engage in delightful conversation.”
The first 10 minutes of any experience have a strong chance of defining the next hour or so of that situation. Basically, if we do not feel welcome or accepted in that window of time, it’ll be very difficult for us to have a positive experience.
That feeling of welcoming and belonging is crucial. And welcoming is not just a nice gesture, it is something deeper. By welcoming, we are doing something bigger. We are allowing someone to feel at ease. To feel comfortable. To feel accepted. We are showing them the open arms of God.