Remember that announcement on television stations when we were kids?
“Due to circumstances beyond our control, tonight’s scheduled presentation will not be seen at its regular time.”
Do we often look at another person’s circumstances when we make our decisions? Do we follow the age old advice of the American Indian and “walk two moons in someone else’s moccasins?”
I don’t. I really don’t. It usually takes me a long time to even think about the other guy’s circumstances. And sometimes, I never think about the other guy.
When we were in high school, a group of buddies and I would hang out at one another’s houses. We’d do the 1980s thing of playing video games. Later, when we began driving, we’d plan mischief or discuss why these new creatures called females were so stinkin’ hard to get along with. And then we’d go driving around and try to find said females.
To figure them out, of course.
One of our buddies never allowed us to come to his house. We’d pick him up or almost invite ourselves over, but we could never seem to get inside the place.
Again, there was discussion. His parents didn’t like the rest of us. He was a mooch. His sisters didn’t want us around. We tried to come up with reasons.
Furthermore, the guy never had money. We were always kicking in a buck or two. He was always eating our popcorn, our french fries, our potato chips.
The rest of us would open up our homes, make big plans for parties and camp outs, or even take turns driving one another around. But not this guy. If we wanted to hang out with him, we had to do all the work.
After a while, a few of us got tired of paying the gas money, giving rides out to his house and basically allowing this friend of ours to mooch off us. It was a decision made by the group and somewhere along the line, along with part-time jobs and girls coming into the picture, we sort of parted ways and stopped hanging out.
Fast forward many years later. Old pals begin to look at the past through rose-colored glasses and forget anything dumb that mattered in high school. People reconnect, go over old times and reacquaint themselves with old friends.
“You know, I sure appreciated you guys being my friends back then. I always felt bad that I was such a sad case back then. With my mom so sick and our house being so messy and smelling like smoke all the time, I was too dang embarrassed to have you guys come in. Plus, all my money was going to pay for my car and insurance and I never had any extra. I probably owe you guys around a thousand bucks.”
These were his words to me a few years ago.
Time and time again we gave this friend of ours a lift to and from places. Time and time again, we invited him over, loaned him money and basically took care of him. That should have been where it ended. But no, we got sick and tired, as 16-year-olds, spending our part-time job money on the guy.
We should have just tried to be his friend. Hindsight, huh?
He told me there were times his mom’s medical bills were so high that his parents had very little extra, and sometimes after he made his own car payment (which he shared with his brother) and paid insurance, he had no money left over for gas to just drive around. The car had to get the two of them to school and to their part-time jobs.
“I sure did feel lucky that you guys were around in high school.”
And to think, we thought he was stingy.
I wish my 16-year-old self had known. My 40-ish self (at the time of our reconnecting) certainly felt like a big heel.
My friend’s mother, a chain smoker and cancer patient, passed away when we were all in college. For many years during junior high and high school, she was in and out of the hospital and rarely well enough to do much more than sit in her chair at home. The kids were on their own much of the time.
We had no idea, whatsoever.
Thinking about my friend makes me wonder why we are all such selfish creatures. We get offended at someone or something and we immediately focus on how it makes us feel, failing to look at the big picture and consider that the other person may have a pretty good alibi.
I’m wondering what our world would be like if we gave one another a little more grace and mercy, rather than getting caught up in our own selfish emotions?
And wouldn’t it be great to somehow speak to our younger selves once in a while? I mean for certain reasons, of course.
If I could get a hold of that skinny kid right now, I’d kick him right in the pants.