Sunday, September 4, 2011

Do You Want to be a Social Elitist or a Friend?

I foolishly thought that social elitism and accompanying popularity contests officially ended during high school commencement ceremonies. What a foolish judge I am of human nature! Even seemingly well adjusted and responsible adults sift people through their social screens to determine who is in and who is out. I even see it in church settings, which makes such an activity particularly repulsive. But occasionally I hear a story about courageous people with hearts overflowing with love that dare to abandon the social sifting process. I heard such a narrative this past week during a funeral dinnner.

I don’t know what prompted her actions, but a very attractive and popular young lady that was a senior at her high school decided to invite a sophomore girl to lunch one day. (This particular school allowed students to leave campus for lunch) This was not a common social practice during that time period. A senior inviting a sophomore to lunch was simply not done. Sophomores were on the bottom of the social food chain. But the this particular young lady obviously did not care.  She and her younger friend arrived at the local eating establishment to join the older girl’s friends for lunch.


The immediate response from the group that was already seated went something like this: “What is she doing with you?” The popular senior girls were of course referring to the sophomore that had been invited to be a part of the daily lunch ritual. The older girl that had extended the invitation did not flinch. She told her younger friend: “I guess we will have to find another table….” And she proceeded to leave her peers to bask in their social elitist behavior.


That event took place nearly 29 years ago. The popular senior girl and her sophomore date for lunch are still friends today…Very good friends I might add!  One simple overture of kindness led to a lifelong friendship. The choice to defy the social customs that are so characteristic of high schools everywhere had significant consequences.


The older girl chose friendship over social elitism. As a result of her choice, she has received untold benefits from having a friendship with a wonderful person. That little sophomore girl grew up to be a great adult and a committed friend. In the back of my mind, I wonder how many other people the older girl in this story has blessed over the years, because she values people over ridiculous social norms.


I have to ask myself: Do I really value friendship over social elitism? If I don’t, then I know I am missing out on relationships that could be a mutual blessing.  I am convinced that it is very difficult to assume both roles. Which will it be for you?  Don't forget...social elitism and accompanying popularity contests did not end at high school commencement ceremonies...

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