“I have a best friend!” he announced.
The little boy was a tad breathless from climbing up the stairs, but also from the excitement of the news he had to share and what it meant to him.
“You do!” I grinned. This was the first time I saw him since the summer break, and evidently this was the highlight of the boy’s current experience.
“Yes! His name is Andy and he is in my class and he has a sister and he is my best friend … my BEST-friend!” Breath, breath, grin, “we’re even the same tallness!” (delighted sigh)
“You are best friends and you are the same height?” I smiled. His joy was absolutely infectious. “This is super cool!”
I am yet to meet a child who is not delighted in friendship though it is harder to come by for some than for others. This little one had it the more challenging way. Always the smallest in his class in stature, always a tad behind in understanding, two seconds slower to get to an answer, a bit clumsy, a little late to catch a joke or ball … Remnants of the difficult beginning of his life and the deprivation that his brain endured to oxygen and possibly nutrition even before he was born; remainders of the excess of chemicals that no developing neurology should have to be exposed to. Alcohol. Narcotics. Who knows what more.
A heart the size of the Pacific, and a soul to light the universe and yet … friends did not come easy to this boy. Somehow groups formed to his exclusion. Somehow best-friends paired up without him. Most children were not unkind, just egocentric, and he was just odd enough, slow enough, different enough, to fail first-choice.
“Andy’s a total doll,” the boy’s adoptive mother confirmed. “They have been inseparable all summer. They are exactly the same height, by the way … They met at summer camp,” she paused, letting me understand. The summer day camp my little client went to was geared especially to include those who had some challenges: children whose difficulties may be invisible to most and yet no less compelling; children with sensory integration issues, with language and attention and learning and a-little-slower-on-the-uptake issues; children who often found it a little harder to keep up … or to make and keep friends.
“Yea!” the little boy jumped in, “and then he came to my class and he was new but I already know him so we are each other best-friends!”
How perfect. For once this boy–so often the follower and tag-along–was let to lead … even if he was to be a shepherd for one (for now …). For once he knew more about something or someone than others or was at the very least aware enough of it. For once he did not have to compete because the connection was already made during the summer and seamlessly continued from day-campers to schoolmates.
“Other kids can be his friends,” he noted sagely, “I have other friends, too, and some of them want to be his friends also. That’s okay. But Andy and me … we are best-friends anyway.”
Heart the size of the Pacific. Soul that lights the Universe. Eyes that twinkle to the Gods.
This little Andy, he got lucky. He got himself the best best-friend there was.