As we travel through life there are people who tend to float in and out of our lives. Occasionally we meet people who we care about and want to stay in touch with. Sometimes these people are people who we lose touch with despite our best efforts. I had an absolutely wonderful conversation with one such friend on Sunday and I am so glad that he reached out to me so that we could get back in touch!
This friend is a very special friend, and probably the only person from my Kentucky elementary school I care to ever see again. He, one of my girlfriends, and I all went to senior prom together. We just clicked which in hindsight is hilarious.
Why is it hilarious? Stick around and I'll tell you all about it. For the sake of clarity we will refer to my male friend as Guy and my female friend as Chick, clear as mud? Great lets go!
So when I was in 4th grade I moved to Kentucky and I did not fit in even a little bit. I had a few friends but not very many, which was strange to me because I had been the super popular social butterfly in Indiana. One of my friends was Guy. My dad, who has never been knowing for being politically correct or for having a filter referred to Guy as "Shanon's little faggot friend," which while not necessarily being the nicest way to refer to an elementary school-er was a correct observation. (For the record I never heard my dad refer to Guy this way, I learned this later in life & he didn't mean it in a mean way, Guy was a kid who was obviously gay and dad knew it, he didn't have a problem with it that was just the word he had been raised to use to describe gay guys.)
In middle school I became friends with Chick. On the surface the two of us have about as much in common as...well nothing in common what-so-ever.
So Guy, Chick, and I remained friends (though not in the 3-musketeers since) throughout middle school and high school. Both Guy & Chick dabbled in the more mystic religions and witchcraft (i.e. Wicca/Earth Worship etc.) I was always the goody-two-shoes, ultra conservative, super Christian girl. Everything I embodied and believed pointed to me being very evangelical and closed minded to "people like Guy & Chick". But I wasn't, I never was. I accepted that they had their own beliefs and they accepted that I had mine. We would sometimes have rather heated religious debates, getting deep into the historical context and meaning of things but we never said anything to insult one another. And probably most importantly, I never tried to force my beliefs onto either of them nor judge them.
I don't know why but even as a dumb kid I was a little bit of a hippie. I understood that it was more important to treat people with kindness than to try and force feed them some religious line that they had heard 100 times before. Even Jesus ate with the sinners, and I am a sinner too--just like them--so who was (am) I to judge. Granted when I was younger I never saw it that was I just simply saw it as me being nice to people I liked and engaging in intelligent conversation but as I have grown older and had conversations with other people I realize that is what I was doing.
I am so glad that I was able to grow and develop my friendship with Guy & Chick over the years because even though I haven't seen either of them in 4 years, or talked to them outside of Facebook since then I know in a couple of months when we meet up for dinner we will pick up right where we left off and I will once again be engaged in intelligent conversation that will help me grow as a person and feed two friendships that mean more to me than most. These two people helped shape me into who I am today. They helped me understand that just because someone doesn't hold the same beliefs as I do that doesn't necessarily mean that they are bad people. I adopted a saying when my super-christian friends would try to criticize me for being friends with Chick and Guy since they all very strongly believed that Chick & Guys beliefs led only to one place. That saying was "they know what I believe and I know what they believe, I can't do any more than share my beliefs, I can't force them upon my friends. Am I happy with what my beliefs say about my friends no, but I do hope that I am the one who is wrong. Either way, if I am right-I go to heaven, if I am wrong-I go to heaven, that doesn't seem like bad odds to me."
Now granted, as an adult I realize that that saying was a little self absorbed and slightly skewed but I do hold to the meaning of that mantra--There is no reason to be mean to someone just because they have different beliefs than I do. I have come across many people over the past 10 years who have different beliefs than I do, and some of them have turned out to be the most amazing, caring, wonderful people I know. And I am so glad that I know them and can count them as my friends!