This is a short story, it is also a true story.
It was Indian summer that first year we arrived in Washington and the spectacle of trees awaited us. The multicolored leaves mixed together so well that they looked like plaid. Against the clear blue sky the vista was intoxicating.
As for me, I was practically a gypsy. Dad was in the military and my family moved a lot. So as I entered my 6th grade class I was once again the new kid on the block. I had been excited to move but now I missed my old friends. The painful process of trying to fit in had begun.
I felt lonely and awkward as I got to know the kids in school. They would look at me but wouldn’t say hello. On one foggy morning as I was walking to school I started praying for a good friend. Loneliness is emptiness. As I approached the old brick school I felt a sense of dread as I anticipated another day. But once I had settled into class one of the most popular girls in the school, Marlene, came up and introduced herself to me.
I was both astonished and delighted. And as the days turned into weeks Marlene and I kept in touch. We talked about many things. We went to the library together and visited each others’ homes. I believed my prayer had been answered. Marlene lived a few blocks from me but in a very nice neighborhood. She was very particular about things, everything needed to be “clean and pressed” and dust was almost unforgivable. Marlene herself was always well dressed and she had such fine clothes.
One day she asked about my father, she said she had heard he was a Colonel. I don’t know where she’d heard that, but I explained that my Dad was a sergeant. It was a quick conversation and I didn’t give it any further thought. I loved my dad, he had done pretty well for someone who quit school in the seventh grade to help support his family.
I saw Marlene in school a couple of times after that but she was with other friends and they looked to be having private discussions so I decided not to intrude. But at the time I had an uncomfortable feeling that somehow a distance had come between us. I just didn’t know why or how.
The next week, the entire class was sent to the public park for gym class. We were to run laps around the baseball diamond. But it had rained the night before and you could smell the dank in the air. As the class gathered I noticed a black crow had landed on a chain link fence. He was watching us.
Marlene got off to a quick start but I spotted her and ran up next to her. The ground was still wet from the rain and we had to avoid stepping into the mud as we ran. As I came abreast of Marlene and said ‘Hello’ she turned up her nose and looked away. My suspicion had been correct. My heart sank, and then as I was about to ask her what was wrong, we ran up on a huge mud puddle. I was expecting Marlene to move to the right so I could avoid the puddle, but instead she moved left. There was no way to avoid it. I stepped right into the middle of the mud puddle!
But then a funny thing happened. As my foot hit the puddle, all of the mud, every last drop of it, spewed out to the right of my foot, all over Marlene. Not a single drop of the mud touched me. Marlene stopped and just stood there, covered with mud. I just kept running.
It rained for several days after that, sheets of rain that went on forever. I was depressed. My friend didn’t like me anymore. I didn’t know what I had done and I was confused. The rain was comforting, it covered my darkness. I brooded about all of this for a while and I couldn’t help but wonder if I had done something wrong. From then on I kept my distance from Marlene. Finally the rain stopped.
It was many, many years after this when I noticed a rainbow had appeared on my way to church. Inside, the sermon was Proverbs 18:24 “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” As I listened I thought back to this incident and it dawned on me what the Lord had done. He had answered my prayer for a friend. It was He, Jesus Christ, He was my friend! There was no shame on me. There wasn’t any mud either! It was then that I was overcome with a feeling of profound peace that He would always be with me. Jesus Christ, my true friend!