This I Believe

Elizabeth - Asheville, North Carolina
Entered on August 29, 2006

I believe that I want to be your friend. I believe that being open to everyone is the best way to grow as a person. It takes patience, forgiveness, empathy, courage, and all of the good things that make a person who they are to accept someone as they are and make a place for them.

As a child I lived in an isolated family. My parents are private, self reliant people who had few friends; this was their chosen life. Our nearest relatives lived hundreds and hundreds of miles away. We had neighbors, of course, but our family hardly ever spoke to them. I saw one neighbor only twice in fifteen years. As a very young child I had neighborhood friends, my older brothers, and a large family of stuffed penguins. But as I grew older, my parents seemed to become less and less willing to allow people into our home. My brothers got older, and didn’t want to play. Then they left home, left me, and I was very sad. I switched schools. My parents were engrossed in work, usually coming home very late. I sat alone, with dinner ready, waiting for my parents every night, for many months. In the long, grey winter nights of my first year in high school, I decided that if I wasn’t going to have any friends that I would have to adapt so that I didn’t need or want them.

I began creating a philosophy which didn’t require people and started to put it into practice. I sat in the bathroom during lunch period. I was quiet, wore the same non-descript clothes every day and otherwise tried to avoid any contact with people. For a while, I tried very, very hard to become a nihilist. It isn’t a nice place to be. It nearly ended with my death. But a strange sort of thing happened. I became acutely aware of the ways that I was connected to others with even my best efforts to disconnect. That quick moment when a squirrel stops suddenly, tilts its head and examines you before darting up a tree, became important to me. Some one, even if it was a squirrel, looked at me. It was aware of my existence. A random smile from a classmate sitting across the room, the smelly drunk at the bus station who isn’t discriminating about who he rants to, became overwhelming to me. I wanted a friend. It didn’t matter who. It is true that nothing makes you appreciate something more than being without.

I know now that there are many reasons to live. There are many important things in life: serving God, working hard, doing the right thing, but none of these prohibits making new friends, and to me they simply give deeper reasons to my own need. So I will let my belief guide me everyday. I will make room for someone to sit next to me on the bus. I will smile at the girl across the classroom. I will take a moment to watch the squirrel, too. Maybe then I will find a friend.