A few Summers ago I was sitting with a friend and mentor of mine named Ren. Ren is kind of like a Grandpa to me. He stands six feet five inches tall, has big hands, and an even bigger smile. Ren gives the best hugs… the kind of hugs only a Grandpa can give. It was a beautiful Summer morning. We were sitting outside of a cafe in Downtown Holland, Mi. The sun was shining and there was a cool breeze coming off the lake to compliment the piping hot Starbucks coffee in our mugs. After a long conversation of catching up on life we sat there in silence. It was the kind of silence that isn’t the least bit awkward. It was the kind of silence that signifies a deep contentment.
Suddenly Ren broke the silence. He pointed across the street and said, “Matt, what do you think about that guy over there?” I looked across the street. Ren was pointing at a younger guy. If I had to guess the kid was seventeen years old. He was wearing black baggy clothes, he had big guages in his ears and he had tattoos up and down both of his arms. He even had a mohawk! And I’m not exaggerating when I say that his mohawk stood a good foot and a half tall! I looked back at Ren with a smirk on my face. I said, “Ren, I think he looks really weird.”
Ren smiled back at me, gently. Then he said something I’ll never forget. “Ya know Matt, that young man laughs just like you and I laugh, he cries just like you and I cry and he wants to belong and be loved just like you and I want to belong and be loved. Even though we have our differences, at the end of the day we just aren’t that different. We all want to belong and we all want to be loved.”
My dad always told me to never assume because when you assume you make an “ass” out of “u” and “me”. There have been plenty of times in my life where I’ve made assumptions and my dad’s advice has held true… trust me. That being said, one assumption I’m willing to take my chances on is this: Even though we all have our unique differences, differences that make us deeply beautiful, at the end of the day, we just aren’t that different. We all want to belong and we all want to be loved. My hope is that this space – this place is a place where my story, your story and our stories encourage one another to discover who is at the center of it all, because the one who is at the center of it all is the one who makes all the difference. The one who is at the center of it all is the one who is constantly calling out, “I love you and you belong to me.”