I grew up in the Baltimore metro area.  Despite the fact that I was a 20 minute drive from the inner city, I classified myself as a small-town girl, most unquestionably a suburbanite.  Growing up in a small town has its charms.  You would usually see someone you knew every time you stepped foot inside the gas station, snowball stand, sporting event, or Kmart (hey, we weren't fancy in Joppatowne).  The community rallied together in good times and in bad, whether unprecedented athletic victory or tragic death.  The schools were good because the parents were involved.  Yadda, yadda, yadda.

And yet...I always found myself wanting a little bit of anonymity.  I didn't necessarily want to see someone I knew every time I went to Kmart for shampoo or a Coca-Cola.  It came time to apply to colleges.  Despite the fact that I desired anonymity, I did not want to go to a giant campus like University of Maryland, College Park.  I convinced myself I could be anonymous by doing something totally out of character for me - moving to a different state to a school where I would know not one single soul.  Yes.  That was my solution.

Mercer was a small school, so no one stayed anonymous for long.  Even people who don't know another soul.  It was just another small town. 

Over the past 31 years, it seems I have perpetuated the same cycle of wanting to be anonymous, finding a small, comfortable niche, rendering myself no longer anonymous.  What happens next is not always the same.

We've lived in our current home for nearly nine years.  Sam and I stayed pretty anonymous for the first few years.  Then, we plugged in.  We put down roots.  We made friends.  We joined a church family.  I regularly see people that I know in Target or the grocery store or Dollar Tree or the handful of other places I actually go anymore.  The difference between my 18 year old self and my 31 year old self is that I don't hide anymore.  I say "Hey!"  I engage.  I notice.  (Okay, not always.  Old habits die hard.  But I have shown marked improvement.)  Maybe the real difference is that I'm okay not blending in anymore. 

The fact of the matter is, with five kids, you can't.  No matter where you go, people notice. 

I dropped Ben off this morning for his hour and a half long Bible Quizzing practice and the four younger kids and I set off to take care of some business.  We landed at Big Lots, and despite the fact that we got the closest spot to the door, it was not easy getting everyone safely across the street and into the store.  It was a slow morning, so the employees had nothing else to do but watch us coming.  One woman met me at the door with a cart and said, "We were watching you.  We thought you might need some assistance."  Bless her. 

When I stopped at the tire place to get our wheels balanced, the employee met me in the parking lot so that I didn't have to unload everyone.  Bless him.  When I told him I'd be back at 11:30 after I picked up my oldest, he replied, "Oh?  You have another one?"  Indeed.  "You've got your hands full."  Yup.  Full of good stuff.

And since the tire balance took longer than anticipated, we found ourselves next door at Hardees for lunch.  We made ourselves at home and the sweet employees catered to our every whim, bringing extra ranch sauce to the table for my saucy kids and doing it with a smile. 

I can't exactly slink in and out of...anywhere...anymore, but I think this is another one of God's mysterious workings - how he always knows better than me.  All of my life I've wanted to remain anonymous.  With five constant tagalongs, that simply impossible.  And it turns out, connecting with people who notice you, is almost always a blessing.  I hope that whether because of Noah's big blue eyes and goofy teeth, Leah's two-ness, Sarah's gregariousness, Abby's shy smile, or Ben's professorial presence people who take notice of us are blessed in return.

We weren't meant to blend in.  We are meant to connect. 

(Just maybe not all the time.  I am still an introvert after all.)

What's your style?  Do you prefer anonymity or community? 


Sharon said...

All my life I guess I've called myself an "extroverted introvert." I can be the life of the party when I'm with people that I feel comfortable with. But most of the time, I also need time to write and read and ponder. As I grow older, I find that I have less energy to mingle and chat. There will always come a time when I feel that need inside of me to "just go home" - and it comes way sooner than it used to. This is OK, but sometimes I find myself retreating into a cocoon, which is not so OK.

I need to reach out more. I've gotten way too comfortable isolated in my little mountain home in my little mountain town. I think God wants me to venture out more, and to have more conversations. I think He has something in mind...


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