Imagine if you asked yourself for a minute,
What if I had your heart?
What if you wore my scars?
How would we break down?
What if you were me?
What if I were you?
-Five for Fighting, What If
“Did you see the girl with the big smile, Mama? I hope we’re friends someday,” my daughter said as we walked away from the lemonade stand just days after moving into our new neighborhood.
I saw her. Oh yes, I saw that beaming of ray of light. My heart did a summersault when my daughter was introduced to L. The girls were going into the same grade, and they both were new to the area.
Within a few weeks, the girls were inseparable. Their shared love of music instantly bonded them. For hours, they’d sing and dance in the basement—their voices more confident and assured together than alone.
The quickly developing bond between two friends was solidified on a painful bus ride home shortly after our move. I took note that fateful day, occurring exactly two years ago. I knew it was important to remember what I witnessed. So when my husband sent me a photo of the two girls on the football field the other night, I knew it was time to share their story and the photo.
Let me just say, this is more than a friendship, and it’s more than a photo. It is a goal … a model … an aspiration of what we could be if we collectively agree to take note.
This is their story …
When my daughter came off the school bus that hot September afternoon, it was obvious something was horribly wrong. With a weary heart, I suspected it was homesickness due to our recent move.
Once my daughter’s words came out, I would have paid anything for homesickness to be the problem.
A boy on the bus had said these vile words to her precious friend: “I hate black people.”
I began to shake with anger. “What did you do, honey?” I asked semi-calmly.
“I asked L if she was okay. She didn’t say anything, so I just scooted closer.” Wiping tears from her eyes, she admitted, “I didn’t know what to do, Mama, so I just hurt with her.”
I hurt with her.
It took me a moment to recover from that.
“You did the right thing,” I said once I found my voice. I then told her I must also do something. I asked if she would prefer I speak to the boy’s parents or the principal. She preferred the principal so I immediately notified her. Expressing deep concern, the principal assured both my daughter and myself that swift action would be taken and this would not happen again to her friend.
The next day, my daughter proudly reported that her teacher unexpectedly walked the girls onto the bus. With her arms protectively around my child and her friend, the long-time educator announced to the boy and those seated around him, “You mess with my girls, you mess with me.”
“L felt stronger and less worried after that,” my daughter said. “My teacher had our back.”
My daughter had said, “our back,” not L’s back.
I took note.
A few months later, my daughter had to get new eyeglasses. Just when she hoping her vision would magically correct itself, she required a new prescription.
“Can L go with us?” my daughter asked the day we were going to pick out new frames.
This struck me as an odd request. “Why?” I asked curiously.
“Because she always gives me truth. She won’t say what she thinks I want to hear; she’ll say what I need to hear. She’ll help me find the best pair for my face.”
Wow. Wouldn’t we all like to have a friend like that? I thought. Naturally, L went with us to the eye doctor. And just as my child predicted, her friend was a tremendous help. I sat back watching as L carefully selected frames that complimented my daughter’s circular face shape.
My daughter, still not keen on the fact she was getting a pair of glasses, looked half-heartedly at the frames her friend handed her.
On the tenth rejected pair, I saw my daughter losing hope. I was about to suggest we come back another day when I heard L’s voice get really excited. “Oh! Oh! You look so good in purple, Avery! Try these.” L handed her friend a pretty lavender pair.
The girls both peered into the mirror together; their smiles widened synchronously.
“Those are the ones,” L said with certainty. “You look beautiful in those.”
“You think so?” Avery asked timidly.
“Now would I lie to you?” L asked, placing her hands on her hips.
Avery laughed out loud.
But it wasn’t until L said, “I’m going to ask my mom if I can get some glasses too,” that my daughter’s look of worry completely dispelled.
Sure enough, L’s mom later reported her daughter came home begging for glasses.
“But you don’t need them,” her mom pointed out.
L knew this, but she wanted to stand with Avery in her time of discomfort and insecurity. She wanted to scoot closer. She wanted to cover their back.
I took note.
A month ago, our families visited the church of the girls’ guitar instructor. Miss Kaitlin was beginning her role as worship leader and we wanted to support her. Afterwards, the families took an unplanned stop at a famous donut shop featured on the Food Network. I was shocked when my daughter looked at the mouth-watering display and said she didn’t want one. I immediately felt her forehead. She must be sick. I thought.
“I’ll just have iced tea,” she said.
It wasn’t until we got home that she admitted the reason for passing on the donut. “I really wanted one, but they didn’t have a gluten-free donut for L. I decided if she had to go without, I would too.”
Again, I took note.
Next month, my daughter is trying out for a basketball team. L’s been coaching her and encouraging her at several camps and clinics they’ve recently attended together. Although L is much more advanced and ready for a more competitive team, she’s choosing to play in the less competitive league as well … for Avery.
Again and again, I take note of what these two friends have to teach me about loving each other.
And today, I pray the world will take note too.
What if we collectively responded to the injustices of our brothers and sisters with empathy rather than defensiveness or indifference?
What if we collectively looked into our brother and sisters eyes to acknowledge their pain rather than closing our eyes or looking away?
What if we collectively understood our privileges and blessings would be far greater if shared by our sisters and brothers?
What if we collectively agreed it is not “your back” or “my back,” but “our back,” if we are to create a unified and peaceful world for future generations?
What if we collectively remember, “I’ll hurt with you,” is something we can all do when we don’t know what to do?
I think we can all agree there is a lot on the line for our country right now. Unity, compassion, empathy, peace, understanding, and love are all on the line, and it’s not looking like they’re going to make the cut.
But then my husband sends me a photo. And what I see on the line at a local football game gives me hope.
The goal of this mighty little team is not to win … or have the most … or be the best.
The goal of this little team is to love … to love each other as they want to be loved.
The goal of this team is to have “our back.”
For they know they are stronger together than they are alone.
Let us take note.
There’s so much on the line.
But love can prevail.
My friends of the Hands Free Revolution, what are your hurts and what are your hopes today? We can learn so much about loving each other through our stories. I am so looking forward to looking into the eyes of my Tennessee friends in just two short weeks. On October 4th, I will be speaking at the Chattanooga Theater Centre as a fundraising event for the MCR Foundation for the Prevention of Eating Disorders. Click here for tickets. On October 6th, I will be speaking in Clarksville at the 6th annual Tickle Me Pink Breast Cancer Luncheon. Click here for tickets. If you plan to attend the events, feel free to bring copies of my books HANDS FREE MAMA or HANDS FREE LIFE, and I will be happy to sign them. There will also be books available for purchase. Thank you for walking beside me on this journey to choose love over distraction, perfection, productivity, and pressure. #onlylovetoday #teamlove