If I were to ask you to imagine a college student, what comes to mind? Perhaps someone athletic. They may be part of a sorority or fraternity. You might picture them at a party, surrounded by beautiful, but very drunk peers. I'm sure the media/entertainment industry play a role in shaping what we imagine when we think of this specific group.
My college experience was far different from anything shown in the movies. I worked both academically and through part time jobs, trying to keep my focus on the things that really mattered. I attended UNM because I couldn't afford to leave town for another school. I lived off campus, didn't get invited to parties and really struggled finding where I fit in. Though I made several attempts to connect with groups of my peers, nothing clicked. I'd go to college groups and try to put myself "out there" but was left feeling like the nerdy outcast.
One day, while sitting by myself in a sea of people at church, I read in the bulletin that there was going to be meeting for a dance group, and newcomers were welcome. Having nothing to loose, I met at the specified date and time.
Now, whether or not this was officially the "30+ Singles Ministry" I don't know, but I was by far the youngest person in the room. I was barely 20 years old and several members of this dance group were old enough to be my parents. The room was full of divorcees, widows and widowers, those who never married, and then me.
I'm sure I had a moment of panic, wondering if I should slowly back towards the door. In retrospect, I'm so very thankful that I stayed. Over the next few months, this group of men and women warmly welcomed me into their midst, showing me that friendships didn't need to be comprised of people who looked like me, with a shared economic or educational status.
We danced, laughed and had so much fun together. I had something to look forward to several times each week and though nothing about my college experience changed, I was changed. Finding acceptance and love, even from this unexpected source, helped give me the hope and momentum I needed to finish strong.
I was reminded of this season of my life when I ran into Harold Brown yesterday. He was the leader of this gang of diverse dancers and was instrumental in making sure that I felt welcome and accepted. His gentle voice and hand guided me across the floor of some very lonely times.
It was a delight to see him yesterday (with his wife!). I thanked him for the role he played in my life. In fact, I credit Harold for my marriage, because if it hadn't been for the dance group meetings, Bob wouldn't have heard the music that led him into the room where I was enjoying an evening with a group unlikely friends.
I'm thankful that I didn't judge these "books" by their covers, and conversely, that they didn't judge me by mine. Choosing to befriend those with whom I had very little in common, was a blessing that continues to pay dividends.