I am lucky enough, through no merit of my own, to live in a particularly lovely suburb in the nicest city in the world – Perth, Western Australia. It is a highly sought after area with excellent schools, close to the beach and playgrounds, sunshine most of the year around – a great place to live and to bring up kids. It’s also very cliquey and hard to break into the community if you’re not from around here. The people who live here are mostly white, wealthy and well-educated. I am one of them. I look like them, talk like them and have lived alongside them for many years.
I am an insider.
As a kid, my parents travelled a great deal, and I spent some years moving around the world. When we got back, I was younger than everyone else in my class, having started school overseas. My parents were both from migrant families, and some of the things we did were culturally different from my peers. I always felt different, not part of the group, not a “real Australian” (whatever that means). At 16, I went on an exchange program, and got to experience how it feels to be the minority, not to speak the language well. It made me feel vulnerable and awkward. It was scary.
I was an outsider.
A few years ago, God showed me how central my insider/outsider story is to my life, and how it is a gift. Whenever I’m at our local school (and with four kids, I spend a lot of time there), I notice the newcomers, the strangers, the lonely people. I find myself naturally drawn to people from other cultures and backgrounds, women with beautiful skin and rich accents. Most of my friends look different from me and sound different – although inside, we are all the same.
God also showed me how much Jesus loved the outsiders. He went out of his way to validate them, stand up for them, lift them up and place them within their communities. With words and actions, in front of the crowds, he identified with the lonely, the foreigners, the rejected, the least of these.
I have a passion to create a culture of welcome in my local community. I want to be a bridge-builder between the newcomers and the established families in my children’s school. I am not there to convert them (although I find my Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist friends discuss God and faith and prayer with me easily and naturally in conversation). I am just trying to be a friend. I am looking for ways to promote intentional inclusivity in our playgrounds, homes and neighbourhood.
This Friday, I am organising a welcome morning tea for new families in our school community. Can you join me in praying they find a safe, embracing sense of acceptance there? Can you also commit to looking for the outsiders in your path today, and intentionally including them in your community?