In Favor of Permeable Social Membranes

A friend referred me to this blog which talks about encountering awkward people graciously. Check it out. When we welcome the stranger, determine to be open-hearted people who let new people into our circles (formal or informal ones), we’re going to get stretched aren’t we… because not everybody comes packaged all socially adept, shiny and cool, gift-wrapped to our specifications.

The author takes a look at the sorts of social interactions Jesus had, accused as he often was of hanging out with all the wrong people (the sinners, the outcasts, the “bad” people instead of the religious right). I don’t mean today’s religious right. I mean those who thought they were right in their religiosity, right because of their piety, who wanted to decide who was in, who was out and who Jesus should talk to (basically only them!).

My sister was — from the get-go — big-hearted. She was often suggesting we hang out with kids that scared me. I remember saying to her, “Let’s not get involved with those people.” Often. And of course later I kicked myself that I didn’t have enough time with “those people,” whom I inevitably discovered to be stellar and lots of fun.

I’ve mentioned that I’m working on a book. It’s about how I lived my life like I was in a fireproof building unwilling to be touched, until that building blew up and I got the thrill of coming into the fresh air and high-tailing it away from the impenetrable fortress of protecting myself from dealing with people who were other from me or challenging to me.

One simple point: the fact that we have to stretch, even considerably, when widening our social circles shouldn’t keep us from doing it. If we know that’s normal and that it won’t kill us, perhaps we’ll push on and try, move on into more open configurations of community. Shall we?

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