This morning I had to walk my kids into school because they were tardy. This is because I made them do absurd and unusual tasks, such as brushing their teeth, clearing their cereal bowls, and putting on their shoes. I truly am unreasonable . After writing “Slowpokes” as “Reason for Tardy” in the log, I explained the blue tardy slip to Anika and told her to bow deeply and regretfully while handing it in. Then I walked a large cardboard train entitled “The Wrinkle Express” down to Addie’s class. I turned to see Anika and Dylan trudging down their hallways, backpacks overladen with canned goods and outgrown coats to donate. Anika looked like a tiny pack mule.
This is my real life. I promise.
On the way out, I stopped into the office to sign out. I passed one of our Pre-K teachers who was with one of her students, a bubbly special needs little boy. (Our school has a special needs Pre-K program.) As I was writing down my name, I heard the little boy delightedly and LOUDLY shout, “ANNA*!” and then rush up to a little girl who was sitting on the office couch with her dad. He jumped up and down, beaming excitedly, grabbing her hand, smiling and squirming like a little puppy. To explain his somewhat disruptive reaction, the teacher simply said, “They’re friends.” They stood, sweetly holding hands, boy and girl, brown skin and white skin, just being four year old friends, happy to see one another. His reaction was totally over the top and totally precious. (*totally made-up name.)
You know, I bet he sees her every school day, but that didn’t stop him from enthusiastically overflowing with friendship after the weekend.
It got me to thinking about friendship and adults and the awkward painful ways that we become too cool and careful and calculated in our social interactions. I have a lot of wonderful friends, but I don’t do the best job of gushing over them as they deserve and genuinely engaging in all the passions, interests, and concerns that matter in their lives.
I have found that I tend to parse out my social groups to keep myself safe and protected, not having to explain or defend or worry. And if you are anything like me, you even avoid real life encounters with friends in favor of the safe Facebook zone where I am not in charge of whether my Democrat friends will like my Republican friends. Will my missionary friends judge my cussing friends? Will my homesteading friends criticize my junk food loving friends? And the greatest worry of all is how will all of this come back to me. The worry is a lot to manage.
Last weekend my friend Kay came to visit and she took some time to read to my children, which means that I have to gush over her a bit. One of the books that she read was A Bargain for Frances , a story in which Francis has to negotiate a friendship with a friend who plays a bit of a mean trick on her. Then Francis responds by pulling one over on the trickster. If you haven’t read it, you really ought to, but after the dispute is resolved, the two girls have the following conversation.
“Well,” said Thelma, “from now on I will have to be careful when I play with you.”
“Being careful is not as much fun as being friends, ” said Francis. “Do you want to be careful, or do you want to be friends?”
This is actually a question that I haven’t been able to get out of my head. I think it took two special needs children and two badger-girls to remind me that I really don’t want to be careful either. Being careful is exhausting.
I just want to be friends. I want to be a better friend, more generous, more grateful, more helpful, more enthusiastic, and less guarded, less self-seeking, and less manipulative. I want my friendships to be full of care of each other–not just of my own ego, agenda, or assumptions. I want to be a better listener. I want to be more forgiving of others and myself. I want to judge less, criticize less, and accept others like B-verse says: Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you. Eph 4:32.
It sounds simple, doesn’t it? What about you? Do you think sometimes it’s harder to be friends than it is to be careful?