I will never forget my childhood friend named DeDe. She was smart and had a great sense of humor. But that is not the main reason I remember DeDe. She is the one friend in elementary school who taught me about being a friend to the friendless.
There was a girl in our class—I’ll call her Jennifer—who was afflicted with a congenital problem that left her with difficulty speaking, an awkward gait, and an odd look to her face. Jennifer was shunned by most in the school, except for DeDe. She was totally unafraid of what others thought and she made every effort to be kind to Jennifer. Her bravery caused me to be kind to the shy classmate as well. I admit I was still a bit uncomfortable hanging out with Jennifer, and it took patience on my part to wait until Jennifer could painstakingly speak even just a few words. But DeDe always cheered Jennifer on in her attempts to communicate. It was such a lesson in kindness to me.
In Promise of Deer Run, the character of Sarah Thomsen befriends the social outcast of the village—Nathaniel Stearns. The young veteran is seven years her senior, but Sarah has memories of the kindness that Nathaniel had extended to her when she was a little girl. It was a kindness never forgotten. Sarah looked past the recluse who seemed so different awaiting the return of his father from war. Many in the town laughed behind Nathaniel’s back. Why would this veteran who frequented the local tavern on a regular basis and who still believed his father was alive, be of a sound mind? Even the churchgoers snickered and avoided him like the plague.
But not Sarah. She saw past the exterior to the heart and soul of Nathaniel Stearns. She dared to speak to him. She dared to befriend the friendless.
It reminds me of DeDe looking past the physical anomalies of Jennifer.
A few years ago a friend from high school told me they found out Jennifer had become a nurse, helping others in their need. I was amazed but pleased—and I remembered DeDe leaving her comfort zone of hanging out with the “cool” kids. I sometimes wonder if DeDe was the one who had given Jennifer hope for a future, years before on the playground at school.
I wonder how many other lives can be changed for the better by befriending the friendless. I pray that I will be the brave one.
Check out Elaine’s book here: http://www.crossrivermedia.com/portfolio/promise-of-deer-run/