The time had been blocked out on my calendar for nearly two weeks, but as it got closer to time to leave the house I found myself diligently thinking through a list of excuses to cancel. Not feeling good…no, too generic. Sick kid…no, too big of a lie. Sitter canceled…naw because then she’ll just offer to come here. Dog got sick…no, that one is just stupid. Headache…that’s a good one, but did I use that one last time?
The more my mind raced through these, the more panicked I became. If I didn’t think of something fast, I was going to just have to go. I was going to have to be honest and show up. Why did that seem like the worst option right now? It was just coffee…with a lady I barely knew. As someone who wanted to make friends, why was I so scared of this first step?
I don’t think anyone actually wants to do this life alone. We all long for connection. Who wouldn’t want a person or two who truly knows them and accepts them? We read things like “find your tribe” or “better together” and we get all inspired to find that band of brothers or that squad who can meet our needs for friendship, fun, and connection. But those memes don’t ever come with instructions on how. We don't need one more meme. Getting to know someone is awkward. Putting yourself out there is hard. And then we start to think, what if they are weird? What if we don’t have anything in common and there’s awkward silence? What if we have differences I can’t overlook? What if they are too needy? The “what ifs” run wild in our head and we decide that it’s not worth the risk.
But science tells us it is worth the risk. Studies of mammals, from small rodents all the way to humans, have data that suggests that we are profoundly shaped by our social environment and that we suffer greatly when our social bonds are threatened or severed. Science tells us that we do better physically and mentally when we have human contact. If we need it anyway, why not take some steps to make that human contact enjoyable?
So there I was, on a Tuesday night trying to decide if I was going to show up for coffee or not. I couldn’t think of an honest reason not to. I had been looking forward to this when it was days away. But the biggest deciding factor in my decision to show up was the fact that I knew people who had the kind of friendships I wanted. And what I knew about those people is that they showed up. If I wanted something I didn’t have, I was going to have to do something I hadn’t done before. I showed up for that first awkward invite for coffee, thinking I would only stay an hour. At the ninety minute mark I found myself laughing and relaxed as I sent a text saying I wouldn’t be home for a bit yet. Before heading home that night we made plans to hang out again that weekend. That was years ago and I still look forward to seeing her face and just being together. This was the start of the kind of friendship I had always wanted.
If you’re lacking in the friendship department or if you find yourself hoping that this is the year you make that one best friend, I want to encourage you to take that first step. When you find yourself laughing with a coworker in the break room about the funny things your toddlers say, invite her to lunch with you. When you have been praying for that lady in your small group, even though you barely know her, invite her out for coffee. Look for ways you can connect with the people who are already around you. Find things you have in common, no matter how small, and become interested in learning more about them as a person. Be genuine with them. Make time for them. Even when it’s awkward.
I have people. I love my people and they love me. One awkward invite, I’m telling you, will pay dividends.