- Susie Csorsz Brown
Extend a hand
Are there ways you can be more generous in the way you extend invitations and in the way you accept invitations.
What if we found space for one more at the dinner table?
What if we extend an invitation to someone unexpecting?
What if we include the single guy (even though everyone else is coming with kids)?
What if the party invite also goes to the proverbial new kid who hasn’t yet braved leaving the sidelines?
We can’t know what it is to be included and invited, especially for those who have historically not been. We can’t know what it finally feels like to be on the outside looking in. Unless we’ve been in that position, too, which many of us have, especially if we move from place to place as frequently as we do.
Look, I know sometimes you just want to be with your friends and to have the circle of comfortable around you. I get it that including a new person means being ‘on’ and making sure they, too, are having a good time. We tend to futz more with new people, hovering to make sure they are okay. They take more work, more effort ... and already you are making an effort having a thing at your house, right? It doesn't have to be that much extra effort, though. We have a rule at our house that the first time you come, we will get you your drinks and show you where things are. The second time? You know where the fridge is. That sounds a lot less inviting than it is in reality. We do this not because we aren’t good hosts; instead, we want others to feel at home. Our house is your house, you know?
So as much as you want to be with your buddies, the same thing goes for kids, too. We know they just want to include their buddies (especially for special events like birthday parties), and it is so much easier to just run and play with their known friends than to walk over to the new kid sitting on the sidelines. It’s a lot less complicated to stick to the known.
What if, though, we did find space for one more? In the end, it’s one more plate to wash. In the end, it is just one more chair to pull up to the table. It’s space for one more sleeping bag. It’s one more seatbelt in the car. It’s not too much to ask.
We are often trying to set an example (for our kids, for our smallish community): extend a hand. We are occasionally on the recipient end, too. A couple of real-life examples of how someone reached a hand out to us:
When I was pregnant with my eldest, the medical experts that be decided that I had to leave post and go back stateside when I was 14 weeks. Gulp! I had to leave my husband, my home, my job, my fur babies, and go be pregnant by myself on a different continent... super gulp! I had to organize this all over a weekend. A dear friend took in my dog every day for a playdate (my hubby would walk him over in the morning, and Cecil got to hang out with his best doggie-buddy; omigosh did those two ever get into heaps of tail-wagging trouble!) and then, at the end of the day, when my husband would stop by and pick him up, my friend would send hubby home with a plate of food. This was the perfect blend of invite and leaving alone that completely works for my hubby.
Another example: When my youngest was sick, and we had exhausted all options for treatment and care in Singapore, they decided we should head to DC. My sister and her hubby and son met us at the airport. She let me send warmer clothes I bought online for my son to her house and then brought it for us at the airport. She took time off from work and spent several days with us in the hospital. She made sure I had food besides hospital offerings. She made sure the two of us had a place to go for Easter. She brought her TRX so we could workout together. Sure, this is family, but sometimes these things go beyond what family often offers.
Another example: When we arrived to our latest country, we were put in contact with a family who answered our questions, gave us a 'real' look at life in Uganda, and basically just were our e-friends even before arriving. A couple weeks after arrival, they had us over for a brunch with another family. We literally hung out, laughing and talking well into the afternoon, barely making it home in time to make a toast dinner and sending the boys off to bed for a proper rest before school. Whenever one lands in a foreign country, sure you meet people at work, and you connect. But to have that immediate sense of friendship, that we've-got-your-back, stay-as-long-as-you'd-like invitation is completely heart-warming. Makes a huuuge difference in one's view of post. And, honestly, makes one want to pay it forward to another family, creating a circle of kindness (yay!).
We regularly invite friends to join us for evenings at Chez Brown, be it for a spirited croquet match, a potluck holiday feast or a Tuesday in March. We also like to include friends for THOSE events like Christmas morning or Thanksgiving, and have extended invites to those without family present at post to singles, to couples without kids, to geographically single friends, etc. Pets always welcome. Adding another plate is never a problem. Staying late is never a problem. Usually the firepit is going, sometimes, so are s'mores. It's all about giving people connection and a feeling of welcome. That's important.
Friends, extend that invitation. Include someone unexpecting. Make sure to extend a welcoming hand.