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
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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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