People do strange things sometimes. At least that’s how it seems until you find out why.
While in college, I found it odd that a childhood friend visited my family before her own when she returned to town during university holidays. Even on short weekend breaks, she’d find a way to spend her first moments with my folks.
Years later I found out why.
One day she confided, “When I walk into your home everyone gets up, greets me with a warm “hello” or “hey!” and wraps me up in a bear-sized hug. When I walk into my home, no one even bothers to stop what they’re doing. It’s not that my family doesn’t love me; it’s just that your family shows love. Your family makes me feel like a big deal.”
Home is where you’re made to feel like a big deal. More than welcome, you are wanted.
When my husband, JP, was in seminary, he learned what he and I now affectionately term “The Three Minute Rule.” Studies show that the first three minutes of every human interaction — the first three minutes of the morning, the first three minutes at the office, the first three minutes when family comes home — these 180 seconds set the tone of your communication for the rest of the day.
It’s not that a negative tone can’t be course corrected — it can — but it’s a lot harder to make a negative interaction positive than keep a positive interaction positive.
The day I learned about the importance of the first three minutes, my mind wandered back to my childhood like an old cassette tape on rewind.
No matter what time Dad came home, we’d hear his key jingling in the lock, followed by a booming, baritone “Heeeelllllooooo!” as he entered the front door.
Mom answered the same way every night — with a cheerful “Hey!” spoken in a way that could only be interpreted as “Yippee! You’re home.”
What the experts say can be done in three minutes my parents did in three seconds. No wonder our friends dubbed my parent’s place “The Happy House.”
It’s not that their lives were perfect. They weren’t. He often worked late and traveled long. She played both mom and dad more often than she preferred. They had their share of life’s hurts and heartbreaks. They occasionally argued, like all married couples do. One time my mom even threw a tuna fish sandwich at my dad’s head. She missed.
It landed against the wall, made a slow slide down, leaving tuna and mayo evidence of her frustration. Dad never saw it coming. He didn’t even know he’d dodged the drama until mom started cleaning the mess.
In other words, they were normal.
They are normal.
But in the midst of it all, they never stopped making each other feel welcome and wanted. They never got too busy or too distracted to take a few seconds each day to say “you’re a big deal” simply by the way they greeted one another. They never stopped making us kids feel that way, either. After 55 years of marriage, they still do it.
Now I have my own home and my own family.
Recently our youngest daughter heard me speak. During the message I mentioned the importance of the first three minutes. Afterward, she laughed when she told me I enter our home just like Granddaddy and greet my husband just like Grammy.
I didn’t even realize she’d noticed.
Somewhere in the midst of making a marriage and managing a house full of kids, I decided to make my parent’s habit, my habit. I purposed to make the first few moments count.
Because home is not merely where you’re welcome; home is where you feel wanted.
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