Some friendships are easy to understand. A friend introduces us, we have things in common, we talk and get along, and it all goes from there. That's how it usually happens for me. That's how I met my Very Best Friend, who happens to be my husband. That's how I met my children's godmother. Some of my best friends are my family members. Or sometimes I work with someone and we just click. Sometimes, though, life throws a friend at me that I just wasn't expecting.
One of my best friends is a teenage boy. He actually started out as my younger stepson's friend, coming over nearly every day during the summer, accompanied by his brother. They walked together; they gamed together -- they were nearly inseparable. The most that I thought about him was to wonder if we'd need an extra place at dinner, or if there was room in the van.
In August of last year, my stepson Titus moved to Texas to live with his mom, and Fletcher was left at a loose end. He kept coming to our house anyway, mostly out of habit, I think, and would sit at the counter and eat cookies while I worked in the kitchen. And we talked, and talked, and talked some more. We exchanged suggestions for books, music, and movies. And more important than talking, we listened. I listened to him, and he actually listened to what I said.
Shortly before Christmas, I realized that I no longer thought of him as Titus's friend, but as my friend. I mean, of course he's still Titus's friend, too, but I no longer made that distinction between his friend and my friend.
It's not at all what I was expecting. I'm an INFP and I don't make close friends easily. I like people, and I can be friendly, but those I count among "close" friends are few and far between, and are almost always bookish introverts as well. Fletcher is most definitely an extrovert, loud and lively and highly energetic. He likes gaming and watching videos on YouTube, neither of which appeals to me. It's just odd to me that someone so very different from me could become such an important friend.
I guess what it really boils down to is that I had never bothered to look past the wildly different exterior to see any of his other qualities. For so long I completely overlooked his compassion, his wonderful artistry, his musical creativity, his sense of humor, his willingness to help, his amazing photography, his ability to really listen, his love for good books and movies, the way he connects with small children, and the reassuring familiarity of a knock on my door at 2:05. He's like a brother, a son, a nephew, and a cousin, all rolled into one. He's family.
I'm actually not writing this as an Ode to Fletcher, although it might sound that way. I don't even know what he thinks about his classification. He might be embarrassed to be talked about like this. I just keep thinking about how I nearly missed one of my best friends, simply because I had already mentally cataloged him -- teenage boy, loud, sometimes obnoxious -- and didn't bother to look further. And it makes me wonder, how many good friends are you missing out on? I can't be the only oblivious, snap-judgment person around. A wonderful addition to your group of friends could be sitting right next to you, and you might not even know it.
It's all about taking the time to really see people and not write them off before you even get to know them. Friends are some of the best things anyone can have, and there's always room for one more.