I try not to appear too desperate. I try not to be a stalker and follow people on Instagram two seconds after meeting them. I try not to wear my “let’s be friends” trucker hat too often. (J/K I don’t have one. No but really, guys, if anyone has one… I’ll take it.) I try not to be too in-your-face with the get-to-know-you questions. But also… I can’t help it! We’re new here, and naturally, we’re looking for friends. More than that, we’re looking for a community. We’re looking for family. (Because our family in Colorado and our family in Ohio are just a little too far away!)
With our 14 previous moves as a couple, we: 1.) didn’t know how long we’d be living there, and 2.) we were placed into somewhat of a pre-existing community (with the exception of living in the village). If the move was for Bible college or part of our missions training, we had instant community, if it was for French school, we met classmates (aka: insta-friends) people in the same boat as we were, and with the same schedule as us. If the move was for overseas missions, we had co-workers, fellow missionaries, and others we’d be working and living amongst to befriend. See what I mean? A natural community was often a part of it for us. That doesn’t mean instant friendships were born, or that it was always that easy, it just means that we had a natural place to meet people in a common place as us.
Rewind to our move to Greeley, Colorado and it was easy (despite the transition / reverse-culture shock side of things) because for the first time ever (since I was married), I was living near my family. Plus we reconnected with some of my high school / longtime friends and their spouses, and it was pretty easy. We found ourselves in a great small group which was clearly meant to be. Then we moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming, and we knew then that it was just a temporary place for us, as we were waiting for Shawn to get a promotion. We knew that the next place that brought Shawn the promotion to manager would be our final stop as far as we knew. It would be a place where we’d settle. With 110ish possible places it could have been across the USA (spoiler alert: we ended up in Texas), we prayed and prayed that God would bring us to the right town, with the right community, and the right church, and the right friends.
It feels so good to be where we’re planning to be for the unforeseeable future (albeit foreign to our former nomadic lifestyle). It feels good to settle somewhere for once. To have a go-to Mexican restaurant and a church we now call home.
But because we’re planning to stay, and because our family is growing, and because we don’t have family here, I’m feeling extra “rushed” to find friends. Not just people we know in the community, but people who text me random tidbits about their day. People who know what’s going on in our lives. People who come over for burgers on the grill and invite us to the lake. You know?
Living in Africa taught me a lot about friendship. You have to work at it, number one. You have to make the effort to find and keep friends. Both parties need to ‘gain’ something from the friendship. For example, in Senegal Fatou helps me with my French, and I buy a kilo of her mangoes. We both win. Expats become friends because I have the rare Reese’s Pieces that we all want/miss/can’t find, and you have AC in your living room. Also, neither of us have family here, and we’re both learning how to adapt to life in this host culture, so a deeper and possibly faster bond is formed.
So that leaves me with a lot of thoughts about friendship in this context here. In the context of being back in the USA, and in the context of being in Texas. What do people ‘gain’ from being my friend? I know what I gain because I’m new here, and we need those family-type friends who you get together with for a fun 4th of July shindig. It leaves me with questions about how many friends one needs. How do Americans make and keep friends? Are we too busy? Do people just click? Is there a chance that someone with family and friends and an established community still needs another friend? How do guys connect?
With every move, and every new place we’ve lived, God has provided amazing friendships for us. He’s provided friends for me, friends for Shawn, couple-friends, older friends for the seasons when we really needed them, life-long friends you text about anything and nothing (or just a funny meme), friends who have taught us something, friends we’ve grown with, and friends who have shaped the people we are today.
We know that God has friends for us here. We know because those friendships have already started to form into something sweet and unexpected. I had lunch at a really good Thai restaurant with a new friend last week. That’s a milestone moment for me because we moved here just a few months ago knowing exactly zero people. We have a small group of friends already wanting to throw us a baby shower. I had coffee with a super cool girl from church recently. All of this is God’s grace as we continue to settle. It takes time. It takes putting some of these lessons and observations about friendship into practice. And… it may take a trucker hat about friendship. Just sayin’.