Have you ever been treated as an outsider or marginalized? Then this story is for you.
I was 10-years-old when my father accepted a new job with the State Police Academy in Richmond. We moved from our home in Tappahannock to Powhatan County. To leave my dear friends broke my heart. I had anxiety over making new ones in our neighborhood. Two girls lived on the same street and they were near my age. After growing up with so many close friends, to create new friends was all I wanted to do. I played with the two girls and, after a few months, realized they were nothing like the kind friends I missed.
One day, the older of the two girls invited me to come to play, She said to meet her behind the houses by the creek, which ran along the wood line parallel to the back yards. The neighborhood kids used the wooded area for games, hide and seek, war, and treasure hunting. Nature’s playground. Excited she wanted to play, I leaped out the back door and down the steps to cut through the woods arriving at the agreed to location.
I showed up expecting her to be running from her own back door excited to see what adventure would follow. I saw no one. I called her name and I waited. Then giggling came from several yards away. My first thought, “Well she must be wanting to play hide and seek.”
The search ensued. As I rounded a few trees and looked for the source of the snickering, the sound moved, then it moved again. Running steps crunching the season old dead leaves and sticks. Silence. Over and again, running, giggling, silence. The one giggle turned into two. I was heartsick. Not a game, but a cruel joke. The girl across the street joined in and the two ran and laughed at my expense. I began crying and headed home. I distanced myself from the girls after that day.
More than a year ago, I attended a writer’s gathering. The participants congregated in a creative collaborative space. We shared our writing and elicited feedback. I so enjoy the energy at such events. As we ended the morning session, the large group dispersed into smaller cliques for lunch.
I sat with a few writers. There were only us three at the table. I watched a person, one who I admired and was also in a position of leadership, marginalize another lady writer. The exchange was subtle, but clear, the dismissive attitude and disregarded behavior left a bad taste in my mouth. However, I sat there and did nothing, said nothing.
I was stunned someone I thought I knew would treat another in such a manner. I understood how the poor lady was feeling. Outcast, unimportant, undervalued, and insignificant. The afternoon went on with my heightened awareness of the dynamics in the group, who was sitting where, how people interacted with one another. The incident seemed isolated on the surface, but as time went on I saw a pattern emerge. Others were being marginalized in small moments.
I left the event with a lot of questions. How does one have the inclination to make another feel so trivial? How could someone I admired treat another person in such a demeaning way? Then the questions turn inward. How could I sit there and be silent when I knew how it felt? I was the fence sitter, the stander-by who did not speak up did not act. I felt shame but did not nothing more about it. The only action I took was to distance myself from the one I had seen be so thoughtless and demeaning.
This past weekend, my friend Sherry and I, along with a dedicated team of people at our church, put on the 2nd Annual Women’s Friendship Dinner. We invited a young, Christian recording artist to be the guest speaker, offer a message and sing her music. The whole event is designed to allow women to come, either in groups or by themselves, and feel connected and included, pampered and valued.
As the evening began, a lady arrived at the dinner alone and, after checking in, went into the dining area only to return a short time later with a question.
“If this is supposed to be a Women’s Friendship Dinner, and some tables are reserved with group names, where am I supposed to sit?” she asked.
A reasonable question and one I knew to answer with God’s Love. Instead of giving some long, drawn-out explanation of why some tables were reserved, purchased as groups of tickets, and other reasons why seats were labeled, I responded with grace and inclusion.
“I have a spot just for you at the main table, where the singer and her family are sitting,” I smiled.
“But that table shows it’s reserved for her family,” the lady responded.
“She only brought her sister. How about you be part of her family tonight? There is plenty of room,” I assured.
The singer and her sister were already seated and six chairs were available. I escorted the lady to the table, introduced her and wished her a wonderful time. I went about my hosting duties thinking no more of it. This is how each woman was treated when they came in, with Grace and Love and smiles and inclusion.
The God led event was fabulous – beyond anything Sherry and I could imagine. The food – delicious and filling. The singer’s music and message – exactly what each lady longed to hear – God’s love for us is perfect and extravagant. Our identity is in Christ and not in our past. We matter, we are loved, and we are Children of God. We are each important in His eyes.
After the event, the guests thanked the team for the evening. We all responded saying it was God’s event and He made them to feel so special, loved and significant. It was our privilege to be a part of such a wonderful evening.
Then the one lady came up and gave me a hug and expressed how much she enjoyed the evening. I responded with, “God gave you this evening. It was all Him, we just joined Him and served.”
God sparked my heart to show this one lady she mattered. The reason behind the Women’s Friendship Dinner is to show all women who attend they are loved by God. No one is marginalized. All are important. This lady was so important she needed to sit at the main table with a Christian recording artist as part of the family for the evening.
A couple of days later, I awoke with the lady’s name playing over and over in my mind. Where had I heard her name before, did she look familiar, had we met? I searched my old emails and I found the answer.
The same lady who was marginalized, dismissed and made to feel insignificant at the writer’s event the year before, was the same lady who came to the dinner last weekend where she was valued and important. She was escorted to her rightful place of significance and standing. She is a child of God and was treated as such.
God allowed a moment of redemption without condemnation or judgment for my previous complacent behavior. He invited me to get off the fence and be proactive in Love and Grace. He gave me a chance to show another His value for them, His extravagant Love, His inclusion into the family of Christ. If I believe those things about myself, how can I not believe it about another?
When we follow Jesus, truly follow Him with our words and actions, no one is in the margins. All are gathered at the table for the banquet, both those who seem to be out cast and the out-casters. We, as His followers, see others as God sees them – His Beloved Children and treat them as such. ♥️
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:46-48 NIV