If any one really knows me they may not know that I am uncomfortable in social settings. I am always hoping someone else will break the ice by talking first. I strive to be an extrovert but it doesn’t come naturally. I think most of the time I just don’t want to be a bother, to say something “stupid”, to be a bore, or seem self-centered. All my life though I have been pushed to be an extrovert, I believe we all have. In order to make friends we need to talk to someone else, sometimes being the first to speak up or we will be passed up. When dating we need to get out there somehow to be seen and heard so that someone will take notice and want to ask more. In school we need to ask questions, be engaged when you work in a group or apply for college and scholarships. In our careers, typically you need to be able to communicate and seem interesting enough to those who are hiring, otherwise the other candidate is chosen. You get my point.
So here in Uganda I have been challenged again to be the extrovert I am not naturally gifted with. I have also seen it with my kids, they have people every day coming up to them talking to them and trying to get them to talk or play. I think that after the initial stranger danger, and especially if you don’t speak but just smile and keep some space; Parker will be all over you within minutes. She will talk your ear off and point out things she sees with your hair, clothes, skin etc. Jacob is hard to read, he is at an interesting age and I think though he is more of an introvert, but daring and curious so an extrovert with his actions and an introvert with words…or just does what he wants and is super stubborn.
I need in every aspect of my life here in Uganda to be an extrovert. I have to communicate to those here, and with more experience with learning the language it will be less nerve racking. I need to try and network so I literally have to say hello to strangers who might be able to help me with resources or find different programs. I need to meet people, who can give me the relationships that help me to not miss home so much when the going gets tough. I also have to be a good communicator to those who support us financially and prayerfully. I also need to reach out to friends from home to keep those special bonds and to keep me sane.
Here is just one example: Today the kids are playing in this amazing little play place at the mall. (You have to pay to use it, that’s the only downfall). It reminds me of home, same situation where there are several other parents all there for the same reason. Same anxiety, in my head I am saying, “Say something, don’t just smile, engage, ask the safe questions, like how old is your kid?” It just doesn’t come naturally to me, I always feel weird, and think well if they cared to talk they would, what if they really don’t want to be bothered, or they are already in a conversation, what interesting things do I have to say?… Normally at home in the states I would literally only speak when spoken to, and I know I missed out on some potential opportunities for friendships, resources, conversation, Godly witness, wisdom…. So here I have really challenged myself to say hello, ask the icebreaker questions, and just go with it…who knows if I will ever see them again and if I do then it won’t be as awkward that next time. I hope with this attitude I can be an encouragement and be encouraged (I am totally ok with benefiting from sticking my neck out there).
All that to say, I have to rely on God A LOT for A LOT of things, even some things that would come naturally to others. I would also add that even extroverts would have a hard time with the life of a missionary. I will keep you posted on how I do with all those new relationships that I know God has in store for me.