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How I met my (best) friend
It was one summer camp that changed everything. It started out normally enough. It didn’t exactly end like I had expected.
I got off the camp bus and grabbed my luggage- also normal enough. All I wanted to do was crash- and crash I did. The next morning was the beginning of a very special friendship. I guess I was the one who started it. After all, I was the one who asked him, “Have we met before?”
“No,” he replied.
I shrugged and started to get acquainted with everyone else in the group. I don’t really have a “group” of my own- I’m more of a friend to all but best friend to none.
Later that morning, I was wandering in the area where we were going to listen to messages and sing. I went to everyone I knew- literally everyone. But no one had any room for me. I shrugged and walked off, but I found myself getting annoyed. And then I saw that guy.
“Hey, I think I remember you now,” he told me.
“Really? Yeah, Melissa introduced us last year.”
“That’s right.” I recognized him as the guy who had told me that he was also a pastor’s kid at last year’s camp. “Why are you walking around?”
“All my friends ditched me. Again.”
“I’m sorry. You want to sit with me?”
That was how we first had much of a conversation. I glanced at his nametag and remembered his name. “What grade are you in?” he asked.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m short.”
“I bet I’m taller than you.”
“I bet you are,” I agreed. We both stood up and compared heights- he was about an inch or two taller.
“I would have guessed that you were younger than me,” he admitted.
Here we went again- the whole thing about me convincing everyone that it’s okay to be short. Instead, I decided to guess how old he was. I knew that he was in the eighth grade and guessed, “So you’re thirteen?”
“Yeah- that was when I changed.”
“I think you’re pretty nice,” I hesitantly told him, understanding that he meant that he thought that he had changed in a negative way. I was telling the truth- after all, he was the only person that I had to hang out with.
“Really?” I wasn’t sure if he was surprised or not. “Thanks.”
“I’m fourteen,” I told him, “and actually closer to fifteen than fourteen.”
“I’m not sure if I believe that.”
“No one ever does.”
And worship started. Later, he told me that I had a pretty voice, and that made me smile. It looked like there was a friendship that was slowly but surely coming along.
I sat with him again that night and the next morning. It was the next morning that really changed everything. He seemed to be studying me, and it truthfully made me feel kind of uncomfortable.
“Hey, are you okay? You seem kind of sad.”
I was shocked- he was the first person in fourteen years that had ever asked me that question. He was also honestly wondering and genuinely cared about my feelings- I could tell. He didn’t mind having me around like everyone else did. He actually seemed to enjoy my company. I knew I could tell him everything.
I sighed. “No, I’m not really okay.” I could tell that he was completely willing to listen. “I’ll tell you later when there’re less people around.”
He nodded, and we sat in silence- not an uncomfortable silence, but a polite silence- before worship started.
Later on when it was the middle of the sermon, the speaker was talking about “giants”, or obstacles in the way of life and the fact that victory has already been granted. He asked me if I had paper. I handed a piece to him, and he wrote this for me. I keep it clipped to th medals I hang over my bed:
“God has granted you victory.
Be glad and smile!
I decided that he was right- problems aren’t impossible to face. Problems come for a reason, and problems come to build you up while tearing you down at the same time. Problems aren’t impossible to face, and I can overcome them. This was only one of many special pieces of advice that I would receive that day. Whenever I’m discouraged, I can find that little piece of paper and remind myself that everything has a purpose and works out in the end.
I decided that I absolutely had to tell him tonight- this was our last night at camp. I knew it would be hard, but I had to do it, and I was going to do everything in my power to make it happen.
That night was campfire- the night where everyone shared about their experiences at camp. I found him (or maybe it was the other way around) and he told me that I should go up there. I refused. Instead, we sat next to each other on the floor and listened to everyone else.
When it was over, he remarked, “That took a long time,” and got teased about â€˜not having a soul because he wasn’t crying.’ Eventually, we left the building and started walking. Somehow, the subject of my “sadness” (as he put it) came up.
For some reason that I still don’t understand, I started to cry- hard. I was sobbing like I never had before. I’m not a pushover- few people have seen me really crying. But now, I was blatantly showing that I needed help.
We were in the snacks area now- and there were a lot of people. Details were a blur. Some people I knew came and gave me hugs when they saw that I was crying. Finally, I got fed up and just turned to him and asked, “Can we go somewhere where less people are around?”
We started the long walk from the main area to my cabin, which was probably a mile or two to walk. I poured out everything on my heart and everything that had happened over the last year or so- not having many friends, hating myself, hating being left alone, and most of all, the difficulty of being a pastor’s kid. He, of course, was the only person that would ever truly understand that pressure and difficulty of the position, since we were both in it without much of a choice. I joked that pastors shouldn’t be allowed to have kids, but added that it’s not exactly fair to deny them the right to do so. That was probably the only part of the conversation that wasn’t exactly serious- after all, friendships include both the good and the bad things.
That was also when I revealed how rebellious I had been, my stupidest mistake, and the fact that no one else knew that I was like this- my closest friends, my parents, no one. He was the only person that had ever asked me if I was sad or unhappy when I was convincing everyone otherwise. And that is something I definitely appreciate and always will.
I was surprised when he, too, told me some things that he had told no one else before. We have kept each others’ secrets- when you’re a pastor’s kid, you can’t just trust anyone that comes along. You always need to remember that people are watching you, or it will get back to your dad somehow and hurt his reputation and yours at the same time. But I had found the one place that I could confide in and be a hundred percent sure that this place, this person, was trustworthy.
I had never trusted anyone more than I trust him- or since. We walked three times, since we hadn’t finished the talk. He prayed for me, and I felt terrible about crying the whole time. But he was lifting such a huge burden off my shoulders that I had been carrying for way too long, and was crying from relief that I had finally let it all out for the first time.
“Why did we come back here? Your cabin was back there.”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, don’t worry, okay? I’m your friend- and you’ll find more of them.”
“Thank you… thank you so much.” I was more grateful to him than words could say in that moment- or that words could ever say in any moment.
He held out a hand, and I shook it. I appreciated the fact that he didn’t take this as a boyfriend-girlfriend thing. I appreciated that he was doing this formally, as just friends. I didn’t want anything more from him than a listening ear and a friendship, a person that actually cared and acted on that. I don’t think I’ll ever want anything more than just this steadfast advice and just being there whenever I need help most.
“Goodnight. God bless.”
“Same to you.”
“See you tomorrow?”
“Yeah, I’ll sit with you.”
And although I was still crying, I managed a smile through my tears. I had found what I had been searching for, and I would never forget this camp. This had been the best camp experience that I have ever had, and personally, that I think anyone could ever have.
Manhattan, New York
Los Angeles, California
East Jordan, Michigan
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