Friday, March 10, 2017

Good Friends Are Hard to Come By

  For the past several months, I was blessed to be able to work with a young man named Whitney. His father was out of  town and needed someone to stay with him for part of the day while his mom was at work. I had worked with Whitney a number of years ago when I was his aid at school. Frankly, working at the school was one of the hardest jobs I ever had, but my time with Whitney made it all worth while. Like Forrest Gump said,"Life is a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get"; every day was like that for me. One of the things I liked best about him is that he is so brutally honest. There is no political correctness or worrying about offending you when he speaks. He just says what's on his mind. You always know what's on his mind, and that's refreshing.  When I worked with him at the school, we ran a school store. Most school stores carry pencils, paper, pens, rulers and other odds and ends that are almost a guarantee that the store won't make any money. OUR school store carried Capri Sun drinks, ice cream, chips, Fruit By the Foot, Fruit Snacks, Smoke-a-Roni pepperoni sticks and all manner of other things that kids wanted. We also had pencils and paper and other school supplies, but we seldom sold much of those items. There was only about 200 kids in the whole school, grades K-12, but that first year we grossed over $30,000. It was fun. Anyway, one day Whitney came in and was hungry. He wanted me to buy him a snack. I offered to buy him an ice cream, but he wanted pepperoni sticks, the most expensive thing. I finally broke down and bought them and asked him if he would like one, and I offered the package to him. Without a second thought he said-"I want two." and grabbed them out. Another time his father, who was my boss, told me to take a can of Swiss Miss cocoa down to the home-ec room and make him a cup of hot chocolate. He wanted Whitney to follow the directions on the can. After he made it, he started walking with the Styrofoam cup and it started to spill. He said, "I'm going to take a little drink." So I said OK. He did and then his eyes lit up, he said "MMMMMM... I'm going to take another drink!" I said OK. So he did, and then he said "I'm going to drink it all!" Which he did. I said "Whitney! That was your dad's hot chocolate! So he says, "He's not that thirsty" It took me fifteen minutes to stop laughing. It was good to see that he hadn't changed in any of the important ways since I last worked with him. He goes out for a walk every day when the weather is good. When we went walking, he would either get way ahead of me or wait until I was quite a ways ahead of him before he would start. I don't know the reason why, but he doesn't like to have anyone walk along side him.He likes to talk to himself and doesn't want to be bothered I guess. One day the weather was foul, so he opted to walk on the treadmill upstairs. I was sitting in a chair in the bedroom, and he looked over at me and said-"Tom, that bed is a mess." I asked if he wanted me to make it. He said "yes please." So I did. Unlike me, he makes his bed every morning before he leaves the house.  Part of my job was to practice emergency drills with him. I asked what he would do if the house was on fire. He said he'd jump out the window. OK. Any port in a storm I guess. We took frequent drives around town, which he enjoyed immensely. He checks the mail every day and going to the post office is an important part of his routine. The new post master and Whitney have really bonded, and he makes a point of ringing the buzzer in the post office to speak to him and give him a hug. On the days when there is no mail in his box, Whitney takes it personally and is sure that the postmaster is holding out on him intentionally. He never fails to ring the buzzer and give him hell on those days. Fortunately it's all taken in stride, and once in awhile there are a few catalogs laying around that have been discarded so that Whitney doesn't have to go home empty handed. This past Wednesday was my last day working with him. His father came home so I wasn't needed anymore.  As we were sitting in the car he looked at me with a certain degree of disgust. I couldn't figure out what was wrong so I asked, "what's the matter, have I got a mouse on my head or what?" He says, "Tom, I'm very disappointed in you" It all revolved around the fact that we were done working together. As it is though, he's come by for a visit the last two days. You know, in the present environment that we have in this country, where no one can seem to get along, I so wish we could all be a little more like Whitney; speaking the truth, chowing down on pepperoni sticks and hot chocolate, and giving out hugs to our friends on a regular basis. I think the world would be a better place.