Feeling Welcomed!

How does it feel to be welcomed? For most of us, it feels good. It may be that for us to feel welcomed is to feel included or accepted, acknowledged, valued, or offered a space. How that happens is different for each of us.
I met many of you when I came to worship at A2U2 the beginning of August and met others at our one-on-one meetings, and through many, many telephone conversations. I felt warmly welcomed. Nothing suggested that I might have a significant culture-shift to navigate, until the day I tried to mail a letter.
I had come up to Portland on a Thursday, with Friday, Saturday and Sunday fully scheduled. On the way from Swampscott, Massachusetts, I’d intended to mail a letter, but had forgotten to do so. No problem, I thought to myself. I will mail it when I get to Portland. Easier said than done.
I drove around and around Portland looking for a mailbox. There were none to be found. I grew up in New York City. I live in a small town in Massachusetts. I once lived in Dayton, Ohio. Everywhere I have lived, there were mailboxes. Apparently, not so in Portland. I gave up looking and retired to the cottage I’ve rented on Cape Elizabeth. On Friday morning I drove to church, eyes peeled for any mailbox sighting. None.
When my appointments were over on Friday, I Googled for the nearest post office. Hoping there would be a mail box in front, I took off, following my GPS. Yes! In front of the post office there was the familiar shape and color of s US Mail mailbox. I slipped in my letter, relieved.
That evening I wrote a thank you note to my step daughter for something she had done. I sealed it, addressed, stamped it, and then looked at it in my hand. Oh no! How was I going to mail it to her? The disorientation of moving into anew community fully registered. Reassured that after my day at the office I could always drive to the post office and the lone known mailbox in all of Portland, I relaxed enough to go to sleep.
In the morning, I tucked the thank you note between my dashboard and the windshield, and took off for Allen Ave. Suddenly, up ahead, I saw a mail truck with a carrier delivering mail into residential mailboxes. I followed for several blocks, waiting for a long front walk that would require him to be out of the truck long enough for me to put my car in park, jump out and thrust my envelope into his hands with a plea to take it.
The truck stopped. The mail carrier got out of his truck, and instead of walking up the front walk of the house, turned and started walking toward me, laughing. I yanked the envelope out from between my dashboard and the windshield, leapt out of my car, and breathless thrust my arm out, envelope waving like a flag. He met me half way, grinning, took my precious note and assured me he would mail it. We both laughed, and I returned to my car.
Portland for me was changed, and I was changed with it. I felt welcomed. I felt like I could belong to this city, maybe even love it.
What does it take to feel welcomed? To be welcoming? It might take surprisingly little, even while being hugely important. We will have lots of practice, as we embark on our journey together, welcoming each other, the familiar and the yet to be known. I am delighted,
Rev. Anita