STEPPING OUT IN FAITH
THE ROLES A FRIEND PLAYS
Mindy, and I met for lunch at Dairy Queen. She was the only one from our class besides Lorraine that I’d kept in contact with over the years.
In between bites of grilled chicken salad, I filled her in on the incident at the reunion and my newest job offer. I thought she’d make some joke about my stumbling to help me put it in perspective. But instead, she looked thoughtful. When she spoke, she focused on my new job.
“You’ll do fine. You have excellent Spanish skills. It’s like anything else that’s gotten rusty. It’ll come back when you use it again. Meet with that teacher, get the book, and brush up on the grammar.”
I nodded. If only it were that easy.
Mindy chased a stray piece of chicken into the honey mustard dressing and speared it with her fork. “Now what about that other job, the one you landed last May at the new college in town?”
I sighed. “Yeah, that’s another problem. It’s teaching Asian Studies. I’m not an expert. But the director thinks I have a good enough background to teach it since I lived in that part of the world for so many years.”
“Good for you.”
I took a sip of water. “She trusts that I’ll do the class justice. It’s a required course for freshmen. I’m still putting the syllabus together.”
“You’ll do a great job,” she said, waving hello to someone she recognized at another table.
“I hope so.”
Teaching at an American college intimidated me. College students here seemed too informal and didn’t seem to respect their teachers.
I shared my fears with Mindy.
“You’ve got all that experience to fall back on. You lived there. You know about several cultures in Asia. It’ll be a breeze for you.”
“Yeah, you’re right.”
Mindy looked at her watch and snapped the plastic lid on her empty salad container. She looked over at me. “Just have fun with it. They’re only freshmen.”
“I know,” I said, laughing. I stood up, smoothed my shorts and lifted my purse strap from the back of the chair.
As we walked into the bright sunlight, I shielded my eyes and stopped, waiting for them to adjust.
Mindy watched me. “Your classes are going to be a huge challenge. You’ll be teaching little kids to high school to college-age, all at the same time.” She whistled. “Wow!”
“I know.” They’re all new situations, too.
She backed out of the parking lot. “You know, Amy, if you’re going to teach here, you’re going to have to make some decisions. I’m going to tell you something that you probably don’t want to hear. But you need to know.”
I bit my lip. I hated it when she used that tone.
“You live in a small town now, whether you like it or not. If you want to keep a paying job here—you’re not making much money off your writing—you’re going to have to be careful of your reputation. You don’t want to have your students thinking their teacher’s the town drunk. You need to look into getting a cane or something.”
“It’s not that bad. No one knows.”
“Amy, listen. It is that bad. People may not know what is wrong, but they definitely know something is. You’re in denial.”
I stiffly reached for the door handle and avoided her steady gaze.
“I didn’t want to tell you but at the reunion, some of our classmates asked me if you had Multiple Sclerosis because you were so unsteady on your feet. Another one thought you might have a neurological condition. And, of course, that one classmate asked me how long you’d had your ‘drinking’ problem.”
I gasped. “Really? Tom didn’t just think I was drunk that night. He thought I had a drinking problem? I can’t stand it when people jump to conclusions.”
“Did you hear what the others thought?” She tried to catch my eye. “When you don’t tell people and they notice something out-of-synch, they’re going to think: worst case scenario.”
I flinched, one hand on the door handle, the other instinctively going to my forehead. Everything was so complicated!
“What happened at the reunion is going to happen again, but this time with more serious consequences. You can’t afford to have anyone think the wrong thing. Call someone. Call that specialist who diagnosed you with your eye problem. Just. Get. Help.”
Nice way to use my own words against me. Everything suddenly seemed overwhelmingly complicated. “Min–”
She turned into my driveway and let the car idle. “Promise me you will.”
“I don’t know. It’s….”
“Just do it.”
Being a real friend is difficult. It means knowing when to back away and when to zero in on problems. A friend is a cheerleader and also one who holds up a mirror to reflect the situation as it really is. Being honest and tactful don’t always go hand-in-hand. My friend “Mindy” does it well. Even when I don’t like what she says, she continues to speak. It’s rare that a friends knows how to juggle all these roles effectively.
What about you? What one friend has caused you to look at your situation as it really was? Or has been a cheerleader in your life? What qualities do you appreciate in a friend? Share it in the comments below.
You have read “The Roles a Friend Plays,” a book excerpt from Mobility Matters Stepping out in Faith.If you Liked it, click Lick, Share and comment below.