A friend of mine (who’s moving across the country this summer) asked me to write a little something about moving. I grew up in a military family, and we moved quite a bit the first eighteen years of my life. I learned a few things as a kid, but I’ve learned even more as we have had families move in and out of our community the past thirty years.
The first thing I will say about moving is a little golden nugget I learned from my mom and she learned from hers. When you move to a new place, get to know everyone. Then, choose your friends carefully. Don’t just fall into friendships with the first people you meet. Take your time.
When I was a kid, moving was an adventure. Even if it was a new place, I knew my family would be there, so that kept me from being too scared about it. My parents were my anchor, and they were rock solid, so I didn’t feel at sea. That’s a very big deal for a little kid. So if you are moving your family, pay attention to the little ones. Let them know you are all moving together. Don’t let them feel isolated or alone.
The next thing is this: keep your head about you. Do not have idealistic ideas about the new place. Don’t assume it’s a paradise, because if you do, I guarantee that you will be mighty disappointed sooner or later. Probably sooner. Be realistic. People are people everywhere. No church, no school, no community is perfect. Not even close.
Don’t take one person’s word for “how we do things around here.” I’ve heard some pretty crazy things under this heading. So watch out for the person who wants to be the spokesman on behalf of the church or the school or the whole town. When someone tells you, “At this church we all home-school,” and she implies with a knowing look that you had better too, beware. Or if she says, “We all bake our own bread and make our own toothbrushes,” please don’t assume she’s really the delegate everyone was hoping to send out to greet the newcomers. Whenever there’s a “We all (fill in the blank) and you had better too,” think to yourself, “Says who?” Please don’t listen to those people. Unless of course, it is the pastor of the church you just visited. If it is, then do go visit another church next Sunday.
Finally, and this may sound very uncharitable, but beware the friendly person who over-welcomes you. Accept reasonable help and hospitality, but be wise. Often it’s the over-doer who has some kind of agenda, and you don’t want to be surprised when you find out what that agenda is. And the agenda may simply be that this is a needy person who needs to feel important. Don’t let yourself or your family be “mothered” by someone you don’t even know. Or someone you do know. Keep your family government in order.
Be patient. It takes time to get acquainted with a new community. Don’t assume that everyone is way ahead of you or way behind. Just look and wait and take it all in. Then make a judgment after a month or two. Or three.