Then the master told his servant, “Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.” Luke 14:23 NIV
It started with a mailbox. My family and I had moved from a large community to a new house in a smaller Midwestern town. The new subdivision, Hunter Green was complete except for the finishing touches—mailboxes. The builder told us to purchase generic mailboxes until the permanent designer mailboxes arrived from the manufacturer.
A month later they arrived, all a standard size and decorated with wild birds. Sandy Schmitt, another newcomer, ignored the edict to install her new box. She liked her personalized dinosaur one, appropriate for a former Smithsonian Institute archeologist.
From this, a small controversy began percolating. Matching wild bird mailboxes were a high priority in this subdivision. Tongues clucked, but evidently Sandy wasn’t going to conform. Intrigued, I knocked on her door to meet this rugged suburban individual. As we sipped coffee, I discovered she hadn’t grown up locally. Sandy, like me, hailed from out west. While she showed me her flowerbed mix of eccentric wildflowers, I thought of the proper petunias and marigolds planted in other front yards.
This gal’s not a cookie-cutter homemaker. She’ll shake things up.
Halloween arrived and many hung tasteful autumn sprays on their front doors. Sandy, however, displayed an outrageous collection of witches and wizards on her lawn. Goblins and devils shrieked through the loudspeaker on her porch along with R.I.P. tombstones of her family. I could hear the neighbors whisper, “Outrageous.”
One woman took up the challenge to put Sandy on notice. She marched up to the front door, her righteous speech on the tip of her tongue. Sandy, thinking someone had finally welcomed her to the neighborhood, threw open the door with friendly anticipation. No such luck. The woman, Bible in hand instead of a pan of welcoming brownies, notified Sandy of her inappropriate and very offensive decorations.
Sandy looked puzzled as she relayed the incident to me. In her ignorance, goblins and demons represented fairy tale fun. She asked, “Why would anyone care how I decorate my lawn?”
The Christian Cringe Alarm went off in my head while I listened—Pharisee alert. What gopher hole could I hide in? Actually the only yard with a gopher was my own. No, I didn’t favor celebrating ghouls, but I felt ashamed of the women who condemned this neighbor.
That’s what made me decide to be a Crack-Patcher in Sandy’s life. I determined to befriend her. We roller-bladed. We took our kids to the park. While our daughters played dress-up, I offered suggestions for a good pediatrician and admired her extensive vegetable garden.
When spiritual topics came up, I kept things low-key. Other than a few references to answered prayer, I just tried to be a friend. In some ways, I had more in common with her than the women at church. Living in this tight-knit community, I, too, had “come late to the party.” Even though I broke the ice with many neighbors and made several acquaintances, I had two definite advantages over Sandy. I had the correct mailbox…and I attended church. Sandy, shunned like a pagan leper, didn’t seem to notice the snubs. But I did.
After another move across town, I saw less of Sandy. Busy families kept our paths from crossing. When the phone rang one night after dinner, I was surprised to hear her voice.
“I know you are kind of a religious person so I thought I’d call you.”
“What’s up?” I inquired.
She paused before choking up. “It’s my father-in-law. He’s been diagnosed with cancer.”
“I’m so sorry,” I replied.
“Well, I know you pray and so I was wondering if you’d pray for him.”
Years have passed since my friendship with Sandy. We’ve both moved out of state. But I grin when I remember the rebel of Hunter Green subdivision. Sandy taught me a lot about reaching out to people. God puts certain people in our lives for a reason. Through Sandy, God taught me to choose friendship over neighborhood approval. And I continue to hear the quiet voice of God saying, “Pay attention to life’s cracks. You need to be there to pull people out and patch up those cracks.”
Is there someone you know who is being ignored because he or she doesn’t fit in? It’s easy to let people slip through life’s cracks. I know I’ve had many time in my life I’ve been guilt of that omission. As ambassadors of Christ, we need to be the first person to extend a hand of friendship. Look around and see if you can find someone who doesn’t have community. You and I can be the person to bring them friendship and share the love of Christ.