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When I say, “It’s the little things that make up a life and that matter the most,” I mean it.

Sunday I went to church with my husband. As soon as I walked in the door, a member reached out her arms and gave me a hug. The pastor was next, and he did the same thing, and he whispered in my ear, “There’s my favorite author.”

To the pastor and the member of our church these welcoming greetings were probably routine, but to me they were life changing.

I haven’t felt at home in the church since I was ten years old. I never thought I would find a church where people open their arms to me. I never thought I would find a church that didn’t turn the “less desirable” people away. In my mind, I never thought I would find a church where people acted like Christians and welcomed everyone to the table.

I have seen mentally ill people removed from services.

I have heard pastors make jokes about the mentally ill.

I have felt like an outsider for forty years.

If you Google “mentally ill neighbor” you will find that people don’t want us to live next door to them.

If you Google “prisons and the mentally ill” you will find that the largest treatment facilities in the country for the mentally ill are jail cells.

If you Google “homelessness and the mentally ill” you will discover that a large portion of people living on our streets are mentally ill.

People seem to want us to disappear. It would be easier if we didn’t exist because we can make other people uncomfortable when our symptoms are too hard to manage – we may be unable to keep up with our hygiene, or we may talk to voices others can’t see.

I know that people who have the same diagnosis as I have are treated as the unwanted, the throwaways, or the eye-sores.

Do you know what it is like to go through life belonging to a group of people who have to prove their humanity? Proving our humanity entails taking a shower, washing our clothes, finding housing and no longer talking to voices inside our heads– all things that may be impossible for us to achieve.

I went to God’s table on Sunday morning, and the people there smiled at me, opened their arms and welcomed me. After forty years of closed doors, I have entered the inner room and found my way home.