At the time I met one of my oldest friends, we were in the 10th grade. She wore eyeliner, band T-shirts and vans. I had a country accent that stood out like a weed in a garden at my new school and two pairs of cowboy boots in my closet. She was nice to me, but it was apparent to me that we were very different. She talked a little differently than me, listened to music that I didn’t like, and wore clothes that I wouldn’t have picked out for myself. We met through mutual friends and soon after, my family moved into a house a mile down the street from her house.
One night after school a group of us were hanging out at her house, supposed to be doing homework. I was goofing off with our mutual friend who I was closer with, taking photos with filters on the ipad. She turned in her chair at the desk suddenly, to show us a photo on her computer. It was on a cute webpage that looked like a website, with a photo of her and a bio. “What is that on?” I asked. She told me it was a blogging site called Tumblr. “You can post and share photos, art, poetry, anything really. It’s like a blog,” she said. I scrolled through her page, secretly thinking this girl is so cool. “Can you help me make one??” I asked. Suddenly, I had something very close to my heart in common with her. “Yeah, totally!” She said. In that moment I felt like our hearts shook hands. Looking back, I realize that I almost missed out on one of my greatest friendships because until then, I had never bothered to look past our surface-level differences.
It’s easy to judge someone by their appearance, status, quirks or differences and think, we have nothing in common. On the surface, my friend and I didn’t seem to have anything in common. But when I got to see a part of her heart, a glimpse into who she is, I realized that it looked a lot more like mine than I thought.
I think we have more in common with people than we may think. When I was younger, I remember studying famous authors in history who were known for their poems and stories about being yourself and finding yourself and staying true to yourself – and I used to wonder about this: Why was there so much literature about something that seemed so basic? And the truth is, it isn’t easy to be ourselves. Society tells us to be ourselves until that means we look too different than everyone else. In the same way, we often choose our friends and share our hearts only with those who look like us. The problem with this is that it keeps us from ever seeing the best parts of people. I would have never known my friend and I had a similar passion for expression and creativity had she not showed me her blog that day, because I made assumptions about her heart based on the very little that I knew about her. How often do we judge someone based on their appearance or our own insecurities before we ever know what their heart looks like? Everyone is trying their best to do the right things and be happy and stay true to themselves along the way – Isn’t that enough to connect us all? We’re all trying. We all want the same things.
I am so glad that I became friends with someone who was different than me. Because as our friendship grew, something beautiful happened. Our differences, what I would have considered her “weird” quirks, began to open my mind to new experiences, opinions and tastes. I discovered new genres of music, I changed up my style to better fit who I am, and I gained a better understanding of who I wanted to be. I grew and became better as a person because I allowed someone who was different than me into my heart. Today, 7 years later, she is one of my best friends.
This is the kind of relationship and growth that God wants for everyone. We don’t have to be best friends with everyone who is different than us, but we have to stop creating barriers between us and other people before we ever get a chance see who they are.
The next time you encounter someone who is different than you, let them be different. Pay attention. Let them say the weird things and wear the weird clothes. And don’t be surprised if you discover that you are more similar than you would have thought. We’re all trying. We’re all a little weird.