Last Sunday after church, my husband and I followed our noses to the Fellowship Hall, where we filled our plates with boiled eggs, grapes, and still-warm sugared donuts.
New in a church of several thousand, we’ve gotten in the habit of hanging out to socialize because the ratio of “people we know” to “people we don’t yet know” is something like 25 to 3500, which means we know less than 1% of the congregation.
In the Fellowship Hall, we carried our plates to a round table for eight where there happened to be empty chairs. Next thing you know, we met an interesting couple in their eighties named Don and Dawn, who among other things are a pilot and a harp teacher.
As we talked about this and that, including how long Don and Dawn had been attending and where they were from, we discovered they had been part of a church fifteen miles to the north where we also had been members, although not at the same time. Small world. They mentioned a pilot they knew there named Dave, and we said we knew him. Then we mentioned a couple named Reed and Virginia, and they knew them, too. “You know Reed died recently,” Don said. Yes, we knew, and talked about how much we’d miss him, which brought up our shared hope of heaven. By the end of the half hour of visiting with Don and Dawn, our acquaintance-ship grew so that we felt connected.
Common bonds make all the difference because it’s easy for people who’ve moved all over the country, like me, to feel rootless, left out, and unable to relate.
Case in point: when we came back from overseas and enrolled our kids in the local school district, the teachers wanted to know the name of our kids’ last schools. The ensuing revelation that we’d come from living in a small village called Rwanguba, in Africa, raised eyebrows and drew all sorts of unwanted attention. At midyear, when our family was deciding where to go on Spring Break, our nine-year-old daughter Bekah said, “Can we go to a place people have heard of?” So we traveled the fifteen hundred miles to Disneyland. As we got in line for a ride, I heard Bekah greet a classmate who was in line in front of us. When I commented how amazing that was, Bekah said, “Why? She told me she was coming.”
We who are nomads often dread the question, “Where are you from?” because it’s not easy to give a short, straightforward answer that doesn’t sound like you’re giving your life history, e.g. “Well, I was born in Idaho but then moved around a lot, and recently came from the East coast.” All they really want to hear is something like, “Ohio.”
When people talk about friends they’ve had since grade-school, I envy—no, that’s too strong a word—rather, I ponder what it would be like to have grown up in a town where you know everyone and everyone knows you. But when connections with people take me by surprise—like the conversation last Sunday—I’m reminded that my roots extend to all the places I’ve lived. So instead of rootless, I prefer to describe us nomads as widely-rooted.
I’m sure if we—you and I—could sit down over donuts and chat for five minutes, we’d discover a connection, too. At least it would be fun trying.