A few days ago I was talking to Leah about how things are going here in Australia. And one of the things I was sharing with her was my expectation of others. Every time I come to Brisbane everyone gathers around the family and invites us all to hang out with them. “Come for dinner!” “Let’s meet for coffee!” You know what? The time before the last time we were all out here (2005) it got to the point where we as a family were meeting up with others for breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner!! By the end of it I was like “STOP!!! I need SPACE!!” Haha. But what never ceased to amaze me was the love my family and I experienced from others. I felt like I belonged and was included.
This time, I’ve been experiencing something very different… and it came as a bit of a surprise. In the past five weeks I have had just one person take the initiative to invite me to do something with her. I’m SO grateful to her! And before I continue let’s get something absolutely clear…. PLEASE DO NOT SEE THIS AS ME HAVING A GO AT ANYONE! That is the LAST thing I’m trying to do. I’m simply sharing something I have experienced since I’ve been here and share about what I’ve learnt from it all.
Maybe I was really selfish to expect a few more people to gather around me and invite me over for dinner or something. I was actually feeling pretty hurt over it and wondered a lot about whether this had anything to do with living in the shadow of mum and dad. But then I always came back to, “No, it has nothing to do with everyone being friends with mum and dad and maybe not so much me. If I knew someone who had just moved around to the opposite side of the planet for sure the first thing I would have done would have been to book him or her in for a fun day out or something.”
I guess what upset me the most was having to answer mum and dad’s questions. “Oh so who have you been hanging out with Akila?!” … “Um no one other than who I’m living with actually.” …. “What do you mean no one? Who has invite you over for dinner?” … “Um, no one.” … “No one has invite you over for dinner?” … “No.” It was actually really humiliating and I cried for about an hour Haha.
As I said, I was talking to Leah about this and she said something that struck me. “Akila, what the heck?! If this was you and your family you would have been all over the new person! No matter what, you always provided a place for them and food. Never have you not included someone or said something like ‘Sorry we cannot afford to feed you! Bring a pack lunch!!’” I was thinking today about what she said and I was talking to dad a little bit about it too. Here’s what I’ve been wondering.
In my family unit, the way mum, dad, Laura and I operate is we are always having people over. No matter how busy or broke we are… there’s always someone over for dinner, or coffee, or to hang out. There is NO WAY I am putting any of us on a pedestal but since I had an expectation of others I needed to go over the way I’ve been bought up and question “Ok, why do my family and I operate differently in this area?” For all I know maybe my ideologies are the issue! Between the discussions with Leah and the family, here’s what I’ve come up with.
Maybe the OM culture has been embedded into my DNA so much more than I have ever realised. I grew up sharing what I had with others. Time, tangible items, food, clothes… OM is a community. On the ship we grew up eating with each other. Living with hundreds of others. Swapping clothes. Hanging out together. Working together. Growing together. Nothing was your own. Not even time. And DEFINITELY not space! Can you imagine?! Space on the ship?! We wouldn’t know how to handle it!!! Hahaha! Sure some call it an unhealthy lifestyle but I think in amongst that “unhealthy lifestyle” maybe a Spirit of Generosity is developed in all those people. Again I’m not trying to put any one on a pedestal but if I look at my time in Australia from the understanding of my lifestyle… maybe my expectations were to a degree too high.
Generosity with time is something that is really important to me; and heck I’ll halve my sandwich with you too! Haha. No seriously, it means so much to us all when people do amazing things like show up a surprise guest to your birthday. Or fly across the world to be with you. Or simply cancel things in their diary to hang out in quality time with you… But you know what means so much more. When people just walk every day life with others.
We talk all the time about being a body. The body of Christ. The church is a body and a community. Yet what does that really mean? I know it’s hard to be inclusive sometimes. Money, time, energy. There’s been plenty of times where I’ve had to block out the world in order to get something done. There’s no expectation on individuals. Or individual families. But I DO have expectation of the church as a whole. I know I’m biased. But I truly value all that I learnt as a result of living on the ships.
Quality time and inclusion is what life is meant to be about. I was feeling hurt that I came to Australia and no one seemed to be… for whatever reason… taking the initiative to hang out with me. But I was talking to another lady who was sharing that she feels pretty lonely in the church. That’s when it dawned on me. What’s worse? Moving to the other side of the world to work with the church for free and not feel like a rock star? (LOL! Rock Star! I crack myself up!) Or being in your own home, your own community, your own church you’ve dedicated so much of your time too… and feel that you’re not treated with the some very simple things to make you feel recognised and significant. Like saying “Thank you” or even saying “Hang you’ve been so busy with stuff in church at the minute, come share dinner with me one night so it’s one less thing you have to do at home.” This is such simple stuff.
I love it when people are honoured for what they do. The work they’ve done. So often I see people in leadership get recognition for what they have done. In OM, in the church, in the secular world. What about those behind the scenes? When do we publicly recognise what they have done? On the ship for example, we have maybe 30 leaders and 400 crew members. The crew members are running the show just as much as the leaders. We’re a body. How can the hand function without its fingers? Dad tries to make a point of thanking people when he’s on the ship. Those that would never be public acknowledged as an individual for their hard work. I like that thought a lot. It’s inspiring, challenging and an example to live by.
I guess what I’m learning, is I can take the initiative. There are people who feel nonexistent all around me… and there’s a lot I can do about that. I can make change and create a sence of inclusion or community. And all I need to do to address that for them, really, is spend time with them and verbally encourage them.
Take nothing from this blog other than the encouragement to walk life with others. You don’t have to do anything extraordinary. Just really try to make those around you feel included. If you really believe that you can never out give God. If you really believe God will provide all you need. If you really believe that we are a body. If you really believe in inclusion and involvement. If you really believe in thankfulness, encouragement, worth, dignity. If you really believe in all that… then let go of the fear of you cannot afford to include others. Let go of feeling like including others needs to be a fancy event. Let go of thinking you are too busy. Let go of thinking that you don’t have anything elaborate to say to someone that will encourage them. Let go of thinking that they will feel awkward fitting into your life style or your family lifestyle. Community, inclusion and the body knows no bounds and no limits.
Thank you for showing me this lesson, and thank you to those who have and are hanging out with me this week!!! 😀