This week, we had dear college friend and her husband at our house for a few nights. Being with someone who knew you when all of the “you-pieces” were coalescing into a whole has a way of turning up the volume on self-perception.
Do you remember college, when you realized how different your family was from all the others? When it dawned on you that the “right way” your mama espoused was really just “a way” among many? For me, it was hair. Turns out, most people didn’t spend lots of time on their hair – they just left their room without thinking about hair. My hair shenanigans (three round brushes and a hair dryer) were an anomaly. People would come from other floors to see it. And, here I thought THEY were the weird ones.
My roommate was on the opposite end of the magnet from me. It worked, though. We knew it was fate when we discovered our matching Ralph Lauren bedding. That was all it took. Our first meaningful conversation was about solving inner city poverty. We bonded. Never mind that she stayed up nights and I got up early; she left the cap off and I squeezed neatly from the end; and she did Young Life while I stuck to InterVarsity. The Ralph Lauren and a few good socio/political/theological discussions a week were enough. Meanwhile, she and I both knocked a few rough spots off of the other, I think.
After college, we move back into our spaces of familiarity. We marry a boy and make a life and have our own little sub-culture again. We forget what proximity with strangers does for us. We forget that proximity teaches us grace.
Thankfully, step-parenting is kind of like college. Living with someone else’s kids helps you remember that there are all sorts of cookie cutters in the world, and many of them are awfully creative. Most days I find myself sifting through what’s True versus what’s just “their way” or “my way.” It’s kind of like college…sometimes people stare at you when you think you’re just being normal. Sometimes you learn a new way to do something when you did not even know your old way needed updating.
I hope that Clarkston puts us into proximity with other people in that way. I hope that knowing refugees will remind us that most of life is just window dressing. The heart stuff (and, sometimes, shared admiration for a bedspread) is what creates real connection.