Grits and other grains of truth

And let us consider how we may spur one another toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Hebrews 10:24-25

I’ve been reading and thinking (and writing) a lot these days about friendships and community. How does community look from the outside and the inside? How do we delve and connect more deeply to shift from being strangers to friendly acquaintances to true friends?

In talking with several friends about what keeps this connection in place, I hear again and again the common thread of reaching out and making time for new friendship.

Two weeks ago, my new next-door neighbor rolled down her car window and called out “Hello” to me. She said we should have lunch, and so last week, we drove to a sweet little cafe and spent a couple of hours enjoying good food and getting to know each other. She reached out, and we both carved out some time from busy schedules to make a connection.

Just the other morning, I got an email from one of my cousins (whom I also consider a friend). She’s semi-retired from a career as a family physician, newly remarried, and living in a different city from where she raised her three now-grown children. Her words resonated with me:

I have had to do a lot of thinking about creating “connections” outside those arenas. … It’s interesting—once I realized what that vague emptiness was I felt better because I could be more proactive and seek out other friendships. It’s not easy—but I feel it slowly working.

Friendships don’t come easy, and past elementary school, strong bonds rarely happen quickly. They can take time, and I wonder if we as a society aren’t losing patience with things that take time.

You may be wondering what this all has to do with grits.

I walked down the pasta aisle of my new “regular” grocery store this weekend and stopped dead:

Pre-cooked grits? No, California, just no.

Pre-cooked grits? No, California, just no.

To any self-respecting southern girl, this is a horrifying sight, a thing that shouldn’t even exist but does. I stood and stared, perplexed. Ummmm, pre-cooked, slice-and-serve grits rolled up like a sleeve of sausage? No, no, no, no, no. Grits cook so quickly, especially if you buy the quick cook kind. Even the slow cook kind only take twenty to thirty minutes. They don’t hold up all that well as leftovers. So why, oh why, would you need these pre-cooked grits, essentially packaged leftovers?

More and more, our society wants instant everything: movies-on-demand, quick meet-ups, fast-formed friendships and, apparently, faster-than-instant grits.

Some things are just better with time, though. Grits and friendships fall into this category. Real grits don’t take much time and only a little attention, but real friendships do. Friendships require effort: making space on packed calendars; spending time with others; hearing and speaking concerns, joys, hopes, dreams.

Of the early friendships I’ve begun building here, every single one has the same two essential ingredients: openness and time. Plus some food added in the mix for good measure.

These friendships will not all end up looking the same, like those pre-cooked grit patties sliced from a plastic tube. Just as grits are tasty with a variety of add-ins, friendships flower in many different, beautiful ways.

Hebrews 10 encourages the church community to continue meeting, but it applies to friends, too. Do not give up on meeting together. Are you missing a friend who hasn’t reached out in some time? Pick up the phone or send an email yourself. Have someone new in your neighborhood or at work you’d like to get to know better? Plan a coffee or lunch date. Feel a lack of friends in your life? Try a new hobby or rekindle an old one to see what new friends are waiting there for you. Whatever you do, though, make sure meeting with friends doesn’t involve pre-cooked grits (shudder).

Do you have a recipe—for friendships or grits—that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you.