Before I began attending Northstar Church, I had not had the opportunity to participate in many service projects. Actually, it wasn’t that the opportunities weren’t there. I simply didn’t embrace them. The last time I had a genuine desire to help out in my community was way back during the college years. And since I had graduated from college 10 years prior, well, one can assume it had been a long time since I’d plugged in and acted the part of the servant.
Early in my Northstar days, I was given the chance to help out at a local food pantry. There wasn’t much involved. I went in and helped families in need as they perused the shelves, seeking the groceries they needed to make it through the next few weeks. For me, as someone who has never truly been in a position where I was unable to provide for my own basic needs, it was a very humbling thing to be a part of.
That evening, I served alongside three other volunteers. One was a girl that I knew from church. Another was a Virginia Tech grad student who was in the same program as the girl from church. The other was a boy in the fifth grade. And that kid was all kinds of awesome.
First of all, he was 11 years old. When I was 11, I wouldn’t have even thought about giving up an afternoon to help the people in my community to find the groceries they needed to get by. This kid was there every Monday with a smile on his face, ready to serve in whatever way that he could.
Now let’s focus on the fact that the Fifth Grader was wise beyond his years. Things were slow at the food pantry compared to other evenings. Or so I was told. After a while, things came to a standstill, so we, the volunteers, had nothing but time on our hands. So we sat around talking. The Fifth Grader was ready to talk about food, life, love, politics. Scratch that, he didn’t want to talk about politics. In a very adult manner, he stated that talking about politics made him upset.
But, wait, he was able to talk about love? Yeah, this is the part where I realized that I may not be smarter than a Fifth Grader.
It had not started as a conversation in which I was seeking advice from the youngling. We were just sitting around, shooting the breeze. The girl from church had asked me about my day and I went on to explain about an awkward situation involving a girl and another girl. Nothing too crazy, but slightly awkward nonetheless. The details are inconsequential. Just imagine your basic episode of Three’s Company and you’ve got your awkward.
I did need to explain the details to the Fifth Grader, however, because he wasn’t alive when Three’s Company was a thing. He didn’t even know Three’s Company was ever a thing. But the Fifth Grader pondered the situation. He thought about it. He went outside for a bit to enjoy the beautiful afternoon weather. Then he came back inside to dispense his advice.
He told me, in relation to my situation, to basically play it cool. He didn’t use these words, but to sum up, don’t change the status quo. But, he also advised, don’t get stuck in the friend zone. Hold up, Fifth Grader, how do you know of the legendary “friend zone?”
“Everyone knows about the friend zone,” he said matter-of-factly.
I couldn’t help but laugh a little. Throughout my life, I’d been stuck in the friend zone at least half a dozen times. I’d been placed there by a number of women who considered me to be a really good friend. Or worse, like a brother. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. I likes to consider myself a good friend. But these days, when I meet an attractive woman that I might be interested in, I don’t want to be friends. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve got enough friends.
The conversation flowed normally after that. Soon, the Fifth Grader had to go because his mother came to pick him up. Before he walked out of the building, he turned back to me and again stated, “Get out of the friend zone!”
So to all the other single folks out there, pay attention to this kid. He kind of knows what he’s talking about. It wasn’t long after that evening when I saw something online that said, “The only reason guys get stuck in the friend zone is because they never ask the girl out in the first place.” That’s not always the case, but more often than not, it probably is. Guys tend to let the women they’re attracted to intimidate them into staying silent. Those women aren’t trying to intimidate these guys and it’s likely they don’t even know they have that kind of effect on them. Okay, they probably know. And not all guys are intimidated. But a lot of the nice ones are. So, nice guys, stop being intimidated. That is all.