I am convinced that one of the nicest things you can do for a person is make them feel like they belong. From experience I have learned that testing the water around a new group of people can be truly frightening because you don't know what they're going to be like and you don't know what they expect you to be like. I experienced this situation this past fall. A very good friend of mine invited me to go with his church to an event called Fall Brawl. First off, if you don't know me, you should know that throughout the majority of my seventeen-and-a-half years I have not been a religious person. At all. So when my friend asked me to hang out with his church, the sirens in my head started screaming: "WARNING, WARNING, DO NOT ENGAGE. I REPEAT, DO NOT ENGAGE." It's not because I dislike religion, actually I feel quite the opposite. I was afraid because I thought that the differences between me and this group of people would make things awkward at best.
I was wrong.
This group of kids may be one of the nicest, funniest, and most entertaining groups of people I've ever had the pleasure of getting to be around, and I'm glad to say that I still do get to spend time with them almost every week. Why? Because they made me feel like I belong. They didn't treat me like some friend of a friend that they had to tolerate. They welcomed me into the group and treated me like I felt like I belonged.
The point I'm trying to make here is that everyone should be able to feel like they belong to a group because nobody deserves to be alone. Feeling lonely sucks. Feeling like nobody cares also sucks. Feeling both at the same time royally sucks.
I want you to imagine a puzzle (you're about to see where I got this oh-so-clever title). Let's say it has... oh... I don't know... 2000 pieces (I like a challenge). But oh crap! The manufacturer made a mistake and gave you 2001 pieces. All 2001 pieces still fit together to make the same picture, though. Now are you going to A) do what the box says and only use 2000 pieces or are you going to B) make the extra effort to find the place where that 2001st piece fits? If you answered A then that's very unfortunate. You are such a conformist. Go hang your head in shame. If you answered B, however, congratulations. You are a gracious human being and if I had a gold star I would totally give it to you, because being piece number 2001 is not fun if it's only supposed to be a 2000 piece puzzle. But if the other 2000 pieces are nice and make you feel included it's one of the best feelings you could possibly imagine.
Moral of the story: Make the new kid feel welcome. Being around a group of total strangers is weird. Really weird. Weirder than Lindsey Lohan weird. Going that extra mile to include the new kid can really make their day brighter.
And to anyone from that church I mentioned earlier (you know who you are): Thank you so much. You have no idea what it means to me.
This has been your favorite non-Jew with a Jewfro (I like to think so, anyway), signing off.