From the first time I walked over to the church, solitaire, clutching my Bible like a shield to my chest, I'd determined not to be shy. I will jump right in and participate, I muttered. I will come out with witty things to say at the correct times. I will make them like me.
Ever since I was five and kicked a friendly teenager who intimated me, I can remember feeling like a cornered rabbit every time I get around a group of people. My siblings have all been blessed with the most beautiful, friendly natures - so I'm not quite sure where I went wrong. Perhaps it is something God instilled in me, for reasons only he know's and understands; but whatever the case, I have always found myself inclined towards shyness. When around a new group of people, I limit myself to awkward smiles, and cliche, fumbled attempts at conversation. (Generally regretting every word later.) As time has passed, God's grace has come and allowed me to be much more eloquent with the spoken word, not quite so clam-like around people.
But still, there are days when I just feel introverted, hermit-like, averse to being around another soulish nature. When I'd like nothing more than a cave, a pile of books, and perhaps a box of chocolate.
I especially struggle with effectively relating to people my own age, feeling clumsy and extremely aunt-like around them. There world is so much different than mine; and while I marvel that they can be so obsessed with sports and fashion, they're taken aback by my obsessive love of literature. I wondered what the Cayman teenagers would be like; how they would treat my skin, so much fairer than theirs; what would be their reaction to my conversative notions. I felt fear that I would spend my evening sitting alone, wrapped in my own discomfort.
Several craned to look at me as I walked through the door, feeling far too self-conscious. Let go, don't think about yourself, think about them, I pleaded with myself. I smiled tenatively, approaching a girl near the front, directly before being bombarded with hugs from all sides.
"You're the new girl?"
"Holy moley, is your hair real or is it a wig?"
"Welcome, want some candy?"
"Can I pet your hair?"
"It's so nice to see you, we lack girls around here..."
I was a bit stunned at first, and remained minorly so throughout the evening. It was as if they didn't even notice my differences; or rather, embraced me all the more for them. These teenagers were a different class altogether; diverse, accepting, beautifully humble and open.
I've lain awake many nights thinking about it, marveling at how much they differ from the majority of American teenagers, who cringe at anything that cannot be categorized. And finally it hit me, they are just as different as I am. Cayman teenagers range from rugby-obsessed giants to dainty music lovers, from kilt-wearing boys with accents to dread-heads with bling. They do not feel the need to copy one another, they embrace their individuality as well as everyone elses. This is an example that I would do well to learn from.
Like I've told many of you, Cayman is a cultural melting pot... each clinging to a bit of their heritage, some adapting the habits of others. (Such as a Jamacain boy I met this weekend with the most posh British accent imaginable.)
I shall very much miss these new friends when I return home, but at least I've taken a new lesson under my belt. If I shy away from others differences, how will they be able to accept mine?