The willingness to give before expecting to receive is a lesson I learned from, of all things, ravens. I found that if I do not reach out first to new people, they usually do not take the initiative to reach out to me. Therefore, it is up to me to introduce myself and start to form the beginnings of a friendship.
Here is how the raven’s lesson began: For years I disliked ravens—mostly because I witnessed them pestering and even attacking owls during daylight. Since owls are one of my spirit animals, I tend to favor and defend them. So it seemed only natural to disdain ravens. When I saw ravens in my yard, I would wave my arms over my head to scare them away.
It didn’t take long for the ravens to begin disliking me. Pretty soon, all I had to do was leave the house, and they would start to squawk as soon as they saw me. It appeared we had become enemies.
Now what? Is that the type of relationship I wanted with ravens? No. That’s when I realized that I needed to do something to improve the situation.
I stopped chasing them out of my yard, but, to my surprise, that did little to improve things. They still squawked whenever they saw me. This went on for several months. Then, shortly after the first snowfall of the year, I started thinking about how the food sources of ravens diminish during the winter. So I began putting out dry bread for the ravens to eat—which they did eagerly. And that is when their reaction towards me started to change.
In the weeks and months that followed, the ravens stopped making a warning call when they spotted me. Instead, they watched me in anticipation of more food. Now they treat me like a welcome friend—the kind of friend who always brings over a tasty dish.
After learning this lesson, I incorporated its wisdom into my life. When my boyfriend at the time and I moved to a new neighborhood, we didn’t wait for the neighbors to come over to introduce themselves. We went around to them, knocking on doors and shaking hands.
We were warned about one neighbor in particular because he associated with white supremacist groups. He unfurled the Confederate flag every morning. For a gay couple like us to walk up to this man’s house and introduce ourselves was going to be a challenge.
After some meditation, my ex and I decided to bake a batch of cookies to bring over as a friendly gesture. It was fun making the cookies and imagining the expression on his face when he opened the door. We wondered how he might respond. It was easy to be optimistic because, honestly, who can resist homemade cookies? (Ok, I admit; it was a type of seduction. Well, sort of.)
So, there we were standing on the man’s front steps ready to ring the doorbell. A few moments later, the door swung open, and standing before us was the much-talked-about, potbellied, beady-eyed redneck. I was tempted to drop the plate of cookies and run away screaming, leaving a cloud of pixie dust in my wake. But that would only reinforce the negative stereotype that gay people leave trails of pixie dust everywhere, so I stood my ground.
With fixed smiles, my ex and I introduced ourselves and held out our tasty peace offering. The man invited us in and, after a long visit, we became good friends. He told us we were welcome at his house anytime. And, thus, a new friendship was born by following the raven’s lesson.
Something to meditate on today: Reach out to new people instead of waiting for them to make the first move. It is easy just to sit back and passively observe people. It can be tempting to think, “Well, if they want to talk to me, they can approach me first.” However, if you overcome your trepidations, you can make new friends.
Offer a stranger a friendly handshake. Take the initiative and introduce yourself. It takes courage because most people feel a little anxious when striking up a conversation with a new person. But you may discover that the other person feels just as nervous as you. There you go; now you already have something in common.
If you have followed any of the suggestions in the Sir Rennity feature, I would love to hear your stories. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will keep your letters private unless you request that they be published.
The Sir Rennity feature is intended to provide gentle guidance for your life. These articles hold no intrinsic meaning. You give meaning to them based on the value you place on them, so the words here are meaningless unless you put them into practice.