Popularity Game

My daughter hangs out with boys at school everyday at lunch.  Sure, this bugged me a little when I found out.  I asked her why she didn’t hang out with the girls.  She said “All they want to do is walk around and gossip.  That’s not fun for me, I’d rather play dodgeball.  Walking around and talking sounds boring.”  This made sense to me, so I shrugged my shoulders and thought “Well, that sounds like a good reason, and at least it’s not because she’s boy crazy.”

After a few months though, it started to really bother me.  I began thinking about how I didn’t want her to miss out on the beautiful friendships that women can build.  I wanted her to be able to enjoy the closeness that only us girls have.  I thought about how after I have had an evening out with my friends, my hubby always asks “So what did you guys do?”  I almost always reply that we just sat around and talked and talked.  This has always been so confusing to him.  “You just talked?  You didn’t do anything?  Just TALKED?  That sounds so boring.”  See, men have to be doing something, while us ladies can get together and just share our lives with one another, face to face.  We laugh together, we cry together.  We try to get in as many coffee dates as we can, and pick up where we left off.

Wanting my daughter to start building these sweet friendships, I asked her again “Why do you only hang out with the boys?  Why don’t you hang out with any of the girls?”  “I try to Mom, but all the ‘popular’ girls hang out in a circle, and when I try to go over and join them, they push me out.”  My jaw dropped “They push you?!” I asked looking her in the eyes?  “No, I don’t mean they push me, they just, you know, step in front of me and don’t let me in.  They just don’t accept me.  So I go play with the boys instead, because they don’t care, and they accept me.”  My heart dropped.  She didn’t hang out with girls because they were all part of the popular crowd….and she was not.  It wasn’t that she didn’t want to hang out with them, the real reason is that she just wasn’t allowed.  

You know, this whole popularity game is stooooopid (yes, it’s dumb enough that it doesn’t deserve to be spelled right).  It infuriates me that kids can be so exclusive at such a young age, and for what?  As I sat and thought about it, and my eyes teared up.  She said it didn’t really bother her, that she was ok.  But it bothered me, and I wasn’t ok.  Do you know why I wasn’t ok?  Because that kind of junk doesn’t end on the schoolyard.  Unfortunately women everywhere feel isolated, lonely and forgotten.  Even in the church.  I could name numerous times that I’ve felt “squeezed out” of already established friend circles.  Pleasantries were exchanged, but I knew I wasn’t welcomed.  Have you been there?  What is that all about?  If there’s anywhere everyone should feel welcomed, it is in the house of God.  Can I get an amen?  We have been placed and planted in the house of God to build up the people of God.  If we decide rather to tear down and turn it into a playground popularity game, we have completely lost the plot.

I picture the body of Christ like the mighty Redwood forests in Northern California.  I was intrigued one day reading about them.  These trees can grow to a height of almost 400 feet.  They are so huge and intimidating, that when you stand at the base of one, you literally feel like you’re shrinking.  Interestingly enough, the deepest their roots will go is only 12 feet into the soil.  I’m no math whiz, but that ratio seems to spell disaster.  But there’s something special about the redwoods.  Though their roots are shallow, they grow horizontally, and actually become entangled with their neighboring tree’s roots.  They truly become one huge living organism together.  I imagine that if you tried to separate the roots, you wouldn’t be able to tell which root belonged to which tree.  These mighty giants would topple over during a storm if it weren’t for the support of their neighboring trees.  The Redwood’s roots remind me of our arms.  Arms that should be linked, entwined, joined together.  We need each other to be able to stand strong when the storms come.  We should be so closely knit together that the world can see that we won’t be easily shaken, that we will stand together.

We can’t busy ourselves with the popularity contests which don’t disappear after adolescence.  It is my hope that we will work towards unity within this group of people we call the church.  May God forgive us for the times we have created an environment that squeezes out new people just searching for a place to belong.  How many missed opportunities, how many broken hearts have passed through our buildings and left no better than when they came.  Start today by welcoming, including, encouraging, teaching and inspiring anyone you come in contact with.  And, oh yeah parents, make sure your kids know that life is about more than who is popular and who’s not.  Let’s teach our kids to love others, by showing them how it’s done.