I felt like I failed.
A couple of days ago, we were at the trampoline park. Baby and I sat on some sofas as the other kids played. A few minutes later, two women speaking Arabic sat next to me, eating and chatting excitedly. Then a couple more women came. And then more. Soon I found myself among a gaggle of Arabic-speaking women where I was the minority.
I wanted to join in. After all, I was literally sitting in the middle of the group! I just didn’t know how to introduce myself. I’ve studied enough about cultures to know I’d be welcomed, but I didn’t know how to begin.
This is a familiar space for many of us. We want to be friendly and welcoming. But beginning feels like an impossible hurdle, whether it is talking to a stranger, joining a diverse group, or signing up to volunteer.
On this day, my baby took on the role of introducing us by grabbing a woman’s bags. We began talking about our kids and she offered us her snacks—date bars and chestnuts.
She was from Syria but had been in the states for eighteen years. Her other friends were from other countries. Some were refugees. Some were not. They knew each other from a local Arabic school I had driven by before.
My “As-salaam ‘Alaikum” was mispronounced. I wondered if I should say, “Welcome to the United States,” or if that would be weird, as the woman I was speaking to had already been in the U.S. so long. Then, in a rare occurrence, I ran out of questions to ask. I found myself just sitting there, Arabic conversations on all sides, until it was time to go.
I felt like I failed at being welcoming. For someone who talks as much as I do about taking hold of opportunities like these, how had it gone so wrong?
Or did it?
What if what I did was exactly enough? How could I reframe this scenario?
I was able to be present among a group of women I wanted to welcome. And I was welcomed by them.
Not knowing how to begin, fearing failure, and getting discouraged are all hindrances that keep us from doing world-changing things. We need prayers at the ready, to cling to, to breathe in-and-out and bring us back to the truth.
And this is the truth: taking the step, no matter how fumbling and messy, is welcoming.
God’s Spirit does the rest. He never said we had to be graceful, so why are our expectations so high? God directs us to trust in him, letting him lead. We are not failures as we follow Jesus’ example. Even when we are discouraged, we don’t have to grow weary in our attempts at good, for we don’t always know what our role is in bringing forth the harvest.
We can reframe our experiences welcoming to be full of truth.
Where do you observe those in your own life?
Just knowing they are there can help you overcome them!
Elisa Johnston coaches everyday changemakers to do good well at Average Advocate, procrastinates on Instagram, and practices authenticity at Authentically Elisa. Whenever and wherever she can, she explores with her four littles and adopted housemate. Thankfully, God, her husband, and other favorite introverts are all particularly grounding, because otherwise her passion to raise-up leaders, live missionally, and start world changing things would compel her into a creative oblivion.