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Comfort Zone

January 28, 2017
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“Mom, is it a good thing to step outside my comfort zone?” asked my daughter.

 

“Yes,” I said, giving her a cautious motherly glance, “as long as there is little risk for bodily harm.”

“Oh, no need to worry about that,” she giggled.

 

{silence}

 

“It’s just that stepping outside your comfort zone is a hard thing to do,” she finally whispered.

“Yes, that’s true,” I said thoughtfully, “but the benefits of doing so can be great. Remember when you were afraid to go to the party because you didn’t know anyone there, but you returned home with two new friends?”

“Yes,” she said, smiling.

“And remember when you were terrified to give your speech in class, but then felt AMAZING when you NAILED IT?”

“Yes,” she said, nodding.

“And what about the time we went to feed the homeless?”

She paused, lost in thought.

 

TWO WEEKS EARLIER

“What exactly will we be doing tonight?” the kids asked, nervously.

“We’ll be serving dinner to a group of 35 homeless adults at a local church building,” I said. “I’m not sure of all the details, but they did say that you kids will have the opportunity to serve the food.”

{uncomfortable silence}

Finally, my son spoke up.

“Can I just stay in the kitchen with you, mom?” he asked. “I don’t want to go out to where the people are.”

“You bet!” I assured him. “You can do whatever makes you feel comfortable.”

 

{apprehensive 30 minute drive to the church}

 

We were the first of the volunteer families to arrive, so we smiled at the adults who were waiting in the dining area as we made our way to the kitchen. I quickly put the kids to work slicing french bread and slathering each slice with butter. This task had a soothing affect on them and, afterward, I was able to get them to join me in the dining area where we visited with the adults.

Jessica. Cyrus. Steven.

Amanda, Cindy, Sam.

 

Each adult with a name and a story.

 

I noticed the care my kids took to look each person in the eye and smile at them. (“Because regardless of how nervous YOU may be feeling,” we discussed earlier, “don’t you think THEY might be feeling even more nervous and awkward?”)

We made our rounds, from one table to the other. Shaking hands. Learning names. Listening to stories. We were beginning to feel more comfortable, more at ease among these brothers and sisters of ours.

Dinner time arrived and we returned to the kitchen to help serve the food. Some kids carefully poured punch into cups filled with ice, loaded the cups onto a rolling tray, and excitedly (because a rolling tray makes EVERYTHING more fun!) pushed the tray from table to table offering each person some liquid refreshment.

Other kids carefully placed scoops of chicken and broccoli casserole, fresh green salad, slices of bread with butter, and brownies on plates as the adults slowly walked past in an orderly fashion, one by one.

 

“Pardon me, ma’am,” a voice interrupted my concentration. “Would you happen to have any napkins?”

It was Cyrus, a man we had just finished visiting with in the dining room.

I asked my son, who was standing nearby,  “Would you like to take the napkins out to the tables for me?”

“Sure,” he said without hesitating.

“Make sure you don’t just toss everyone a napkin,” I suggested, “rather, ask them first if they would like to have a napkin.”

“Okay,” I heard him say as he headed through the door to the dining area.

Curiosity got the best of me and I watched him from the doorway. I smiled as I saw him ask each person the question and, in turn, hand them a napkin. I knew he was in the middle of overcoming his fear.

When a group of adults at a table stopped him to engage in a 10-minute conversation, I held my breath. Would he respond to their questions, or would he stand there like a deer in the headlights?

My heart beat wildly in my chest as I waited.

And then I saw it. He was talking with them—answering their questions, making them laugh. He was at ease in a situation that had once frightened him. With a burst of pride that only a mother could feel, I turned and left him to continue the conversation on his own.

 

Driving home that evening the kids exclaimed, “That was so much fun! Can we do that every month?”

I asked them what surprised them the most about our experience.

“It surprised me that everyone was so nice.”

“I was surprised to learn that many of them have kids.”

My son, who had been silent at first, finally responded, “I was surprised that I actually LIKED being out with the people.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Returning to the present, I smiled at my daughter and said, “Yes, stepping outside your comfort zone can be an extraordinarily great thing.”

 

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