A friend invited me to meet him in Chicago for an event for superfans of a television show I had never seen. He and his wife had become huge fans of this show and had thoroughly loved going to two previous fan conventions. She was unable to go this time, so my friend wondered if I’d have any interest. The show is a dark, pretty-brutal Australian women’s prison drama called “Wentworth”—not my normal go-to type of show when relaxing in my recliner.
My first thought was, “Why in the world would I go to a fan event for a show I don’t know anything about?” I pictured people dressed up as their favorite characters and sharing insider info about storylines and behind-the-scenes drama. “I definitely won’t fit in,” I thought.
Then I realized this could be an amazing experience. Not only to be with my friend, but to see up-close what it is that compels people from all over the world to come together and celebrate their favorite TV show. I went armed with curiosity and low expectations.
SPOILER ALERT: I had an amazing time.
The best part was getting to know some of the other fans, in particular, the ones that my friend Doug and his wife had made during the previous events. We ate meals together and laughed…a lot.
The most entertaining part was the Q&A sessions with four of the show’s stars who had flown in from Australia. Each actor would walk out on stage to thunderous cheers and applause, overwhelmed by the love being directed at them from the crowd. I wouldn’t recognize any of them if they walked up to me on the street. But for this crowd, they were legit rock stars. Hearing their answers to audience questions and behind-the-scenes anecdotes, I could sense myself falling prey to their charm. I was being sucked into the hype…and I didn’t mind.
Some audience members thanked an actor for literally helping to save their lives through their storylines of love and triumph over adversity. I could connect to so much of what was being said, from the audience and from the stage. Yes, I cried.
Here’s the Big Deal
Most of life seems to be about lifestyle homogenization—gathering with like-minded people, those who share your interests, visit the same places, share the same office or church, etc. Is there value in shaking things up a bit? I believe so.
Some of my life’s most eye- and heart-opening experiences have been spent being around and getting to hear stories of people who are completely different than me. People, perhaps, that I would’ve previously judged for being weird or different, or maybe I was told that they might drag me down with their surreptitious behavior.
But it’s these moments that have revealed how unbelievably similar we all are. How the things we care about the deepest, are usually what other people care about, too—even if they express it in different ways.
Traveling is a great way to experience this. It has been for me, especially traveling around the world with Up With People my year after high school. Or studying in Copenhagen, Denmark for a semester in college. Or visiting a Nashville prison for weekly “life group” meetings for 23 years. Or going to a fan convention for an Australian women’s prison drama.
Life is full of awesome experiences. But the very best part is the people you meet along the way. They change your life, your heart, and your perspective, way better than any programmed event, theme park ride, beautiful scenery, or stunning architecture.
To live out your hope and faith is to let your heart be changed by people. And for me, one of the most beautiful ways I’ve changed is by giving more and more people room to be fully themselves, to go crazy about the things and people they love, and surrender any desire to try and get them to do things my way.
I hope you get a chance to check out my new podcast. I’m seeking to uncover shared faith stories with lots of different types of people, finding the things we have in common and the various ways they have found to hang onto their faith. It’s called “Saving My Faith” and you can hear it wherever you podcast. Or right here…
You're so right!! Some of the greatest experiences I've had are when I've stepped outside of my comfort zone. I can think of a particular situation when I did that and it lead to a great friendship. We don't know what's waiting out there if we don't push ourselves to be a little "uncomfortable" at times.
I'm so grateful for all the people I've met through the years with our many moves.