A couple of months back Caleb invited a friend over. He and his mom came on a Saturday morning to play and chat. I will admit that as an introvert, I don't often stretch myself to make new friends. I'm terrible at small talk, and often find myself sitting in silence, unsure of what to say next. Luckily, this woman, Parisian by birth, had honed the European trait of easily sharing yourself and opened herself up like a book.
By the end of the morning, I was surprised at how much of her story she so easily shared. Her journey to Canada involved a love affair with a married man with a crumbling marriage, her spending years as a mistress, her ultimatum, a wedding she planned while he was oversees, her emigration from a beloved country, the heartache of infertility, one miracle baby, the ostracizing from his family, her journey to personal acceptance and spiritual stability... all these pieces and more as if we were discussing the weather. We even found a surprising connection between the two of us (her husband's nephew was a good friend of mine in university.)
After she left, I reflected on this new woman I had come to know. She was so very, very different from me (including being much older). I could not relate to much of her experience. Even our moral and spiritual centres were miles apart. And yet there was the spark of friendship there. It made me realize how much value variety can have in our lives, if we let it in.
So often we are drawn to those with similar ideas, ideals, viewpoints. We shy away from those who differ. Perhaps we are afraid of their challenge to our own selves, or perhaps we feel we have no common ground on which to start, or perhaps we wonder what on earth we would talk about. But if we fill our circles with only those who believe exactly what we already believe, and know what we already know, how can we possibly be stretched and grow? Only by exposing ourselves to the beautiful variety in life can we find exciting new parts of ourselves. And even if we hear something new and don't agree, it should solidify our own views, not threaten them.
I regularly check in on three blogs, three "virtual friends" so to speak, even though I've only ever met one of them in person.
One is a mom to 5 kids at home range in age from 5 to 15. She's a few years ahead of me in parenting, and I like to see what's down the road. Her kids go to the local public school and are crazy busy involved in sports, music and other activities. Her parents are best-selling authors of parenting books, and she's always got great lists and tips and parenting ideas. She's a go-go-go kind of mom who has lots of plans for every stage of life.
One is a mom to 3 children younger than mine. She's a feminist who challenges the status quo. She's a brave and honest writer who tackles really tough subjects like pornography addictions and her feelings about femininity and self-image. She's a free spirit with a really strong personality. She writes her opinions passionately and firmly.
One is a mom to 8 children from newborn to pre-teen. She and her family live on a country property with a large greenhouse and garden and several animals. She home schools and home churches. She has built her community mostly at home. She loves to challenge her own ideas and the ideas of others, constantly on a search for truth. While a house with ten people can't be quiet, there is a feeling of peace that emanates from her writing about her life.
These three women are about as different from each other as you can possibly imagine, and each one imparts such a different view of life. I love my exposure to each of them, and I feel equally drawn to what they each have to offer. I wonder if the result is that my own life is a harmonious mix of these three, or a chaotic melee. Whatever the end, one thing is sure: this kind of variety stretches me beyond my own settled comfort zone as I grow year by year.