Wedding of a Stranger

I went to a wedding on Sunday. I had only known the bride since ten in the morning and didn’t know anyone else in attendance. That alone is a pretty interesting hook for a story, but there’s something about me, personally, that takes it to the next level.

I’m an introvert. This may come as a surprise, given my background as a project manager, pianist, and Juror #10 in a performance of Twelve Angry Men–the juror with the long-winded bigoted monologue where for a few painful minutes all eyes are on me. The truth is I’m a terrible public speaker, and you’ll generally find me hanging out at the back of a party, sipping a glass of water and wondering how much longer I have to stay before it’s no longer considered rude to leave.

This past Sunday we attended a new church. I’m not sure how familiar the Orthodox faith is to most, but I can summarize my stress that morning with one simple phrase: all children attend service. And I’ve got four of them, the oldest one a mere six years of age.

About halfway through the service, my second daughter grew very quiet behind me. This was a notable event because she’s generally a tornado of a child. I looked back to see her sitting on the lap of a complete stranger. I panicked, wondering what terrible thing she’d gotten herself into now and how I was going to explain this, when my wife told me everything was fine. The lady had asked my daughter to sit with her.

During the announcements at the end of the service, the priest mentioned a wedding at the church that evening. The young lady who had been holding my daughter whispered in my ear that we were all invited to the wedding. I found it strange that she was inviting me to somebody else’s wedding, but as fortune would have it she was the bride. She’d given my wife the same invitation.

When it was time to go, the introvert in me declared that we weren’t going to the wedding. We were tired, poorly dressed, and didn’t know anybody. I did not want to impose on a stranger’s special day. My wife and other children really wanted to go, however, and so in an act of immense willpower I told that introvert inside of me to have a seat.

The wedding ceremony was beautiful. My daughters watched in awe as the bride and groom stood in the middle of the church before the priest. My four year old later claimed to have seen a princess. After the ceremony the bride and groom invited us to the reception.

We sat in the parking lot of the reception hall considering our options. We did not know anybody here. There would be food–food that somebody had paid for without us in the equation. We decided to just run inside, take a few pictures, and leave. As we were getting out of the car, though, the bride and groom arrived and parked beside us. She grabbed up my four year old and carried her off into the reception hall after snapping a few photographs.

We ate, at their insistence, and stayed for all of the events–the toasts, the dance, the cutting of the cake. My children met other children and played until they collapsed from exhaustion, then got up and played some more. I met so many wonderful people and learned quite a bit about the bride and groom–and about myself.

When it was time to go, the bride pulled us aside. She spoke in her Romanian accent, and told us how when she arrived in the States she knew nobody except her fiancé. She felt so alone, and the members of that church took her in just like family. She knew we were new to the area and was simply paying the hospitality and goodwill forward.

And now it’s my turn. Time for this introvert at heart to watch for an uncertain newcomer–to make someone else feel as welcome and comfortable as this Romanian girl made us feel, after knowing us for barely an hour.

Have you ever gone against your own nature to reach out to someone else?