The shaved head continues to go over well. Only one person so far has expressed displeasure with it. OK, she actually told me that I should “never ever never do this to my head again.” I won’t mention her name but she blogs and she’s my sister. I suppose she’s earned the right to be brutally honest with me. It’s not as if we haven’t been best friends since 1980. That being said, I still don’t think I would say something like that to her. Oh well… It’s moments like that, though, that make me wonder whether everyone else is just being overly kind in their support of what I’m doing or if she’s just really unhappy with what I’m doing. Whatever… I have been trying to force myself to say a little prayer each morning. “Lord God, help me to remember that it’s not about me.”
The reason I am writing this evening is to express thanks for another friend. At the end of last school year I volunteered to mentor a new teacher this year. I was overjoyed to discover that the person I would be mentoring was not only not quite a new teacher (and thus would require less work on my part) but was also… ready for this?… a dude! You don’t understand. As a theology teacher in a Catholic high school I am almost always the only male teacher. It was nice to come to work this year knowing I was not the lone representative of the Y chromosome in my department. Don’t get me wrong. I love the women I work with, all the women I have worked with over the years at several different schools. These are true Christian women who love the faith and love sharing it. But being the only man in my field has at times contributed to isolating me in ways I almost hadn’t noticed. Well, at the start of this year I was delighted to discover that, not only was I not the only man in my department, but that I had gained an instant friend. He is my age, shares a lot of my background (ex-seminarians, large family), has been married for the same number of years. Why he even has a five year-old son and a three year-old daughter just like me!
But having a lot in common doesn’t automatically mean that two people will become friends. No, friendship comes from shared experience and a recognition of Christ in the other. Let’s go back to that first friend I mentioned — my sister Bridget. I have never not known her to live her life as a reflection of the Gospel, even when she is being brutally honest and telling me how goofy I look with a bald head. Every day, in raising her family (soon to be eight children), living her faith, teaching, writing… To live, for her, IS Christ, as St. Paul writes. “Vivere Christus est!” But beyond that, we share almost every important moment in life from our childhood getting intro trouble riding our tricycles on the roof of the family room because “it seemed like a good idea” to slipping off to Manhattan on a Sunday afternoon when I had my first high school job and could afford to buy us each a ticket to Damn Yankees! We “get” each other and that combination equals friendship.
And as CS Lewis once said “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself…” The first time I met my new colleague we sat down to lunch in the school cafeteria. Another co-worker mentioned that it was the birthday of yet another colleague. We sat around wondering how we could surprise her on such short notice. After a few moments of silence, my new pal piped up “I could strip?” I spit my drink out for laughter. My sense of humor. I could tell this was going to be a good friendship. That being said, I sometimes fail to see when I am being pushy and I would hate to think that someone “befriended” me purely to placate me. I am, after all, somewhat useful to this man as his mentor. But any doubt I may have had was extinguished over the weekend. I told him of my plan to shave my head for Wilma (my mother-in-law who’s going through chemo). He asked if I’d mind if he also shaved his head. “Why not?” I responded. It turns out that his mom is a breast cancer survivor. His dad hadn’t been so lucky and had succumbed to colon cancer years earlier. That must have been tough. Anyway, when he made the offer on Friday I didn’t expect him to go through with it. Imagine my surprise this morning when I walked into his classroom to show off my shiny skull and was blinded by my reflection on his shiny skull! “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself…”
You’re a good man, Zippy (had to give him a pseudonym since I try to avoid real names on these pages). And as I’m watching The Golden Girls as I write this I want to leave this thought for all the Bridget’s and Zippy’s in the world. Thank you for being a friend. I maintain (in my masculine competitiveness) that my scalp looks better but you wear it well. The neat thing is that we now have twice the opportunity to ask students to pray for Wilma and that’s well worth the lost hair.
Oh, and go say a prayer for Wilma. Thanks!