Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Being a friend

One of our YL Capernaum Teammates asked about ideas for one-on-one times with our Capernaum friends. So I thought I would reflect and recount some of my own one-to-one times with kids. I have always loved times like these more than anything else, and none of it is rocket science or that unique to Capernaum. It is what we do in the normal course of being a Young Life leader.

My first six years as an YL Capernaum leader were spent with kids in wheelchairs. I loved getting our Capernaum lift equipped van and to pick kids up after school and just go out for ice cream or hot chocolate. I loved to delve into their lives and find out what they love. It didn’t matter if they were non-verbal. I loved the challenge of that! What helped was using 20 questions that they could say “yes” or “no” to. One friend named Danny communicated by looking up for “yes” and down for “no”. He would laugh like crazy when I was way off the mark about what he wanted to say. I knew that was just the reality of trying to understand him, but it was the “trying” that meant the world to him. I found that it is just as important for a friend to know me. So I would offer up slices of my life of what I liked, hoped and dreamed for. I opened up my life as a gift to my friend.

I also like to go to a friends’ home. My friend Tony, who was laid up in bed with bedsores for 2 years, would love that I went to his home to sit with him and watch superhero cartoons. We would just be together. Words are way less important than presence. One day I glanced at Tony’s wall and he had written a note by his bed. He had written, “Nick, Best Friend.” I am still overcome by how powerful my once a week visits were to him.

Where friendships really take off is when you have shared experiences, adventures big and small. Sometimes it would just be driving around town listening to music, talking, joking and laughing. Sometimes it is a movie or going to a baseball game for the first time.

Last year I took my friend Manny to San Francisco to speak at an YL National Board Meeting, it was an hour ride each way and lunch coming back. Manny has not stopped talking about it. He felt important, he wanted to hang out more often and our friendship deepened.

I love having kids into my home. Years ago a friend built a cement ramp and every time one of my friends in a wheelchair comes to visit, they comment on it. One friend named Danny could not believe that I was taking him to my house when I picked him up. When I asked why he was surprised, he told me that no one invites him to his or her house. I said, “Well buffalo breath, you are wrong. You are coming to my house today.” And we watched the Three Stooges together for 3 hours until we cried from laughing so hard.

One-on-one times are simple. It is simply my persistent effort to enter a kid’s world and find out what we share in common. It is going into his world and letting him in my world. It is sharing new experiences together. It is becoming lifelong best friends….All this writing reminds me that I need to call one of my friends!

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” John 1:14

Loving Kids,

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