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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "A Man is Known by the Company He Keeps" (without using the actual phrase). (01/31/08)

TITLE: Confessions from a Person Who Didn’t Always Appreciate Her Friends
By Lynda Schultz
02/04/08


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When I was in Grade Five, I tried to walk the tightrope of social status. I struggled hard to become one of the “in” group in my class. It didn’t work. I neither looked nor acted the part, and I couldn’t play baseball. Publicly declaring that I wanted to be a missionary when I grew up probably didn’t help. Eventually I gave up the effort and formed my own circle. D was part of that group, an awkward, motherless outsider. If no one else wanted to play with those of us who weren’t among the beautiful and the popular, we’d play with each other.

There was no question about what would happen in Junior High. I shared those two years with E. She was big and gangly, totally uncoordinated and mentally slow. She was hydrocephalic and had a head greatly out of proportion with her body. E was also a Christian and outspoken about her faith. The other kids teased her unmercifully about her physique and her faith, often reducing her in tears. I couldn’t stand the injustice of it. We had to be friends and stand together against the forces of adolescent cruelty.

There he sat, two rows ahead of me in chemistry class. L was a nerd, a geek, and an apple in the midst of a bunch of bananas. He was a Christian. He didn’t bother to hide it, nor did he flaunt it. He simply was, and everyone knew it. He spoke about his faith without hesitation whenever the opportunity presented itself. His face would turn red, but he spoke up.

I was a little embarrassed by him. I shouldn’t have been because I was, after all, the other apple in the midst of the bananas. My problem was that I still had a lingering desire to be liked by my peers and Les didn’t seem to have that need. It could have been because he rode the bus into school from twenty miles out of town eliminating any chance he had of participating in after school activities or developing intimate friendships with any of the others in the class.

L played the organ in his church, he didn’t have an athletic bone in his body, and he dressed and acted like a little old man caught in a Grade Twelve time warp. I mean, what could be more unacceptable to his peers than any one of those things?

I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t ignore what I was, or what I professed and I certainly couldn’t abandon him to the bananas. So, we became friends and fellow conspirators in the fight to save our schoolmates from their downward spiral toward eternal destruction.

After high school, came M. She was short and skinny, with mousy, frizzy hair and buckteeth. M was not on anyone’s “in” list but she wanted to be on mine. I remember complaining to my pastor once about how unfair it was that someone like M had claimed me when others of the more “beautiful” people wouldn’t let me into their lives. I blush with shame now when I think of how rotten my attitude was then.

S was another anomaly. A twisted childhood had left her with lots of scars, which she worked hard to cover up. S tried so hard to be accepted by others that she always ended up scaring them off. They felt controlled, and she felt crushed when they rejected her. Once we came to an understanding on the limits of our friendship, we developed a healthy relationship. I was well aware of the curious, and sometimes pitying, glances I got from those who felt it necessary to keep their distance from her.

C is a paranoid schizophrenic and incapable of doing most of the simplest tasks. She has an incredible facility to remember names, birthdates, and phone numbers, but distorts the information she hears, and hears stuff that was never spoken, from people who don’t exist. People wonder why I bother with her. However, she knows God loves her. That makes us kin.

It’s funny. I don’t remember any of the names of those I was once so desperate to call my friends. However, I do remember D, E, L, M, S, and C, who have been my friends whether I wanted them to be or not. Today, I am not ashamed of having walked beside them, perhaps because I have finally come to realize how much like them I really am.


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This article has been read 832 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Karen Wilber 02/07/08
Amen.
This is a moving story and it's still sinking in. Your "company" story has heavenly applications. "I'm not ashamed of having walked beside them" - sounds like what our Lord would say as he looked at your friends as well.
Patty Wysong02/10/08
What a confession--one that many of us could probably relate to. I especially loved the opening and closing lines.
Lyn Churchyard02/11/08
Parts of this reminds me of my own life when I was growing up.You have captured the truth of not only wanting to be liked, but realising what is really important.
Gregory Kane02/11/08
A tender bittersweet confession. Very moving. Part of me was left wondering what those friends would have had to say about the narrator!
btw I noticed that you accidentally left in Les’ name in the fourth paragraph.
william price02/11/08
Great story and superb messagae, per usual. You always deliver the goods. BUT, the DELMS and C had me going ( and still does) I know you wouldn't just pick those random letters for no good reason. So, here is my guess: Is it because these letters, by a group of themselves, can not form any word? So thus, maybe, symbolising an "outcast" type group that can only be a word if joined to others? Or something close. Anyway, you got my mind churning.
Great job. God bless.
Shelley Ledfors 02/11/08
Wonderful! I love the honesty in this piece. You give us much to think about.
Loren T. Lowery02/12/08
What no vowels to soften your friends impact to the world? Only harsh consonant? But then maybe you are the I, binding them together like the I you might find in kindness. Really enjoyed this piece and its message.
Edy T Johnson 02/14/08
You are so easy to read, Lynda. Your readers can identify with everything you tell us, as if we were right beside you through the classrooms of life. I especially like your final sentence summary. Great job, friend!

Thank you, too, for leaving a comment on my entry. I always appreciate your insights.