Friday, March 03, 2006

Friends Worth Keeping

Meet the Muller family. From the left: Kaley, Deanne, Carol, Brooke, and Dan Muller.

Dan and I have been friends for so long, I can see the family resemblance in his kids. I met Danny in my first grade class, when he was just a little guy and his favorite word was “eyeball”.

We became best friends in third grade. He was a goofy, pesky kid; I was shy and withdrawn. Rejection from the social order cemented our relationship, in fact, for a few years it was pretty much the foundation of it. To be friends with us was to be a social outcast, so no one bothered to be our friend. I think we actually liked it that way, because we both feared that if a third person joined us, one of us would get left out.

Things changed a bit when I was home-schooled in seventh, eighth, and ninth grade. Dan faced middle school alone, along with all the problems that come with it. But we had a paper route together, and Danny never hesitated to let me know all the things that were going on in his life. I think it was during this time that Danny became interested in spiritual things, and he often called on me for guidance. I always tried to answer the best I knew how, even though I had many questions myself.


The paper route ended in tenth grade, and Danny’s father’s job transferred him to Minnesota at the start of our Junior year in high school. For three years, the only communication we had was one letter from him (I don’t remember if I ever wrote back) and a few phone calls. As I graduated from high school and left for college, I thought the time we had as friends was drawing to a close.

Unbeknownst to me, Danny grew up in those three years in Minnesota. Alone in a strange place, Dan soon found himself a social outcast. But he was determined not to let a repeat of New York happen there. He gained a reputation as a fighter, and with it, the self-respect that empowered him to move on from his past and create an identity he could be proud of.

I got a call toward the end of my Freshman year of college that Dan was getting married, and that I was to be in his wedding. I took a train out to St. Paul that summer, and met Dan at the station. He had become a stocky guy with a job as a garbage man. I met his new friends and his fiancée, and saw his apartment and the nice house his parents had moved into. But once again, when we were alone our main topic of conversation was spiritual things. Dan explained that there were a lot of different religions there in Minneapolis, and he informed me that he had become interested in Wicca.


Dan called me during my Senior year of college, saying that he had been trying to lead his father to Christ. At first I was taken back by his statement, but it became clear to me in our conversation that he had become a Christian. At what time I can’t say, but it may have been as far back as the paper route days. I made it a priority after I graduated to go and visit him and his family out in Minnesota.

I took the trip in late August of this past year. We spent a week together, cramming as much activity into it as possible. We must’ve watched a half-dozen movies, went to the State Fair, went to the Renaissance Festival (where it always rains no matter what), made a couple of bonfires, shopped at the Mall of America, went to a Tagine show, and a whole bunch of other things, basically cramming two weeks into one. I had a great time with his kids. Carol and Kaley are two of the smartest and most sociable three and four-year-olds that I have ever met. How many three-year-olds can make a conversation with complete sentences and paragraphs? I would make the trip again just to see them. When the topic turned to spiritual things, we had to admit that neither of us were as close to God as we should be. I was encouraged though, that Dan has found a great church that he attends about once or twice a month.

I developed my definition of a good friend on that last trip to visit Dan. It’s a simple one: a good friend is someone who doesn’t want to see you leave. That’s really what being friends is about, just relishing the time you have together. Maybe it’s because I have so few really good friendships that I especially cherish this one. Not many people are blessed to have a childhood friend that stays your friend into adulthood. I count myself among the very blessed.


Rachel said...

You are blessed. Not too many people have a friend like that, I know I don't.

Bethany said...

I remember Danny eating sunflower seeds whole (he taught me how), "teaching" you French when he started learning in 7th grade, stepping on that rake in the driveway (which pierced his foot), playing in the leaves with us kids in the fall, and coming over and telling us that he had athlete's foot while walking around our house barefoot. He was a fun kid. I'll never forget him.

Martha said...

You are blessed to have Dan as your friend.