One passage from Antoine Saint-Exupery's classic, "The Little Prince", continues to enchant me nearly thirty years after reading it in college French class. The Little Prince has agreed to a play date with a wild fox. The Fox asks when he might expect him. The anticipated answer thrills him so because, as translated from French, he must "prepare his heart". The invitations we offer to others include every interaction from those as grand as destination weddings to those as fleeting as eye contact. Do I allow this person into my mental space? Do I welcome this person's handshake, or even a hug? These micro-negotiations fill our lives constantly.
Once during my junior year in high school, my mother offered to have some of my friends over to our house for a pizza party. I meekly invited a few friends for the gathering the day after Thanksgiving. Nobody showed up. Nobody. I don't recall now exactly how hurt or relieved I was not to host my friends. The memory of the unanswered invitation lingers nonetheless.
More recently I found myself on the loose end of several unanswered invitations. As part of a project with which I was involved for over ten years, I invited many individuals and groups to participate, confident that if those invited would put on their shoes and socks to show up even once, they would recognize the benefit of engagement with us. Countless email invitations and Facebook events went unacknowledged. Even many friends who knew the near-sacred importance to me of this project often could not invest a few seconds to click 'yes', 'no', or 'maybe'. Through personal encounters with new acquaintances, I learned that "I am soooo there" loosely translates to "I am entering the Federal Witness Protection Program and shall never be seen again."
Out of these disappointments I have made a practice of answering invitations. Even to the regularly scheduled Evites I receive along with 300 other people I click 'Maybe', knowing that somebody needs their effort to host acknowledged.
Invitation is not an accident. We at Saint Andrew know this. The table is open to all. Even the seating in the sanctuary compels us to make eye contact with another person. Regardless of whether you are depressed, introverted, overbooked, or tired, you will see the welcoming faces of people no less pleased to see you than you are to see them. Perhaps if we prepare our hearts for joy, we repair our hearts with joy. Prepare your heart everyday.
David Whitner has been a member of Saint Andrew since 2001. He currently serves as our Worship committee chair and co-teaches 4th and 5th grade Sunday School. He represented Saint Andrew at the Kansas City Pride Festival with an inflatable unicorn he named Agape.