You’ve Got a Friend
by Kristi Jo Jedlicki
It is easy to be accepting of others whom we find to be socially acceptable or “normal”, if you will. It can be far more difficult, though, to be accepting and supportive of those who are “different”. The ability to treat others with respect and love, especially those who are deemed to be abnormal, is one of the greatest acts of kindness. Recently, I was the witness to such an act of kindness that left an imprint on my heart.
John is a guest at the day shelter for homeless men where I work, and he often can be found sitting quietly among the other guests or greeting the staff in a distinctive voice. He also lives with a severe mental illness that sometimes affects his ability to distinguish fact from fiction and can make it challenging to carry on a coherent conversation with others. It seems like it can be a lonely existence for John, but thanks to Ray, another guest at the day shelter, he recently discovered that he has at least one friend.
As I listened to John share a flurry of jumbled thoughts with me, I saw Ray approach us and stand quietly on the periphery. I assumed that he was waiting to speak with me. I assumed incorrectly.
During a lull in our conversation, Ray approached John and said, “Hey, buddy, when you are ready, let’s go get something to eat.” John broke into a big grin and nodded, and then, he went to gather up his backpack.
When John was out of earshot, I thanked Ray for being so kind to him.
Ray humbly replied, “He’s a good guy, and I like him. Not a lot of people talk to him, and I don’t mind helping him and making sure he gets something to eat.”
When John reappeared at Ray’s side, I bid both of them good-bye and told them to enjoy their lunch.
As Ray turned toward the door to leave, John turned to me and said, “He’s taking me to go eat. He’s my friend.”
He is indeed, John, and the world needs more people like Ray who accept someone’s differences to make a positive difference in that person’s life.
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