Around the Bluhmin’ Town
Do you have a friend? Then you are lucky. Friendships do not fit into any one mold and sometimes they form, mysteriously, against all odds. A twelve-year-old boy with autism, Kyle, was asked by his eighty-two-year-old neighbor, Mr. Brown, if he could help do some odd jobs. What started out as a few mundane weekly chores like pulling the garbage can in and out, gradually grew to something else. Kyle did not talk much, had few friends and often slapped himself repeatedly in the head. He lived with his single mom and was an only child. Mr. Brown was a widower, loved to play chess and had a collection of World War II memorabilia. Eventually, Mr. Brown got Kyle interested in the game of chess. And life changed for both of them.
Most days after school, Kyle would go over to Mr. Brown’s house. Together they played chess, talked about school and looked at World War II books. Kyle learned how to play a game, sit still, stop slapping himself and hold a conversation. Mr. Brown found a kind and curious companion at the end of his life and Kyle found a best friend that he never had as he entered his teenage years. Friendship has no age restrictions.
When my young horse, Sedona, became gravely ill and was on stall rest, two large ravens often sat on her fence rail. At first, I was surprised at the antics of these two huge birds, wondering what they were up to. But I could see that they would sit for long periods of time, shoulder to shoulder on the rail, while Sedona was lying down. Sometimes she would get up to greet them. Were these birds my horse’s new friend? A routine was established, every morning and evening the two ravens spent time with my sick horse. One day I watched one of the ravens pick up little bits of apple that had fallen from our tree and fly over the barn, dropping them in Sedona’s stall! A bird bringing my horse a treat? Friends fly to any heights to give us encouragement.
A woman in Cave Creek was hiking by herself about a mile from her car on a trail in Cave Creek Park. As she was walking on a warm, Spring day, she heard a whimpering sound from behind a bush. When she went to investigate, she found a dog covered with blood lying on the ground just off the path. The dog, a fift- pound mixed breed, was bleeding from the neck. The woman tied a sweatshirt around the dog and carried him for over a mile back to her car. When you weigh less than 120 lbs, carrying a fifty pound animal for a mile is no easy feat. She rushed him to the Vet to find the dog had been shot and left for dead. That was three years ago and “Hope” is now healthy, happy and the woman’s best friend.
An elephant sanctuary in Georgia has a forty-year-old elephant named Ella that one day befriended a stray dog. The dog and Ella ran to each other as though they were lost friends. They immediately kissed, cuddled and rolled together on the grass as if they had “found each other.” The stray dog would not leave Ella, and eventually was allowed to stay with her. Called Sparkle, the dog goes for swims with Ella, sleeps with her at night and gets “trunk rides” as Ella walks around the sanctuary carrying Sparkle. Love at first sight? Or “old friends” from another life? We recognize our soul mates when we see them.
At Kyle’s admission interviews to colleges, he likes to tell people that Mr. Brown saw something more in him than just an awkward boy. He saw him for the man he might become. And Kyle saw in Mr. Brown not just an elderly man, but as the person he used to be. The days after Sedona died, two grieving ravens sat in the tops of trees and would squawk, “caw, caw, caw” over and over again. For five days, they would call for their friend, who had left them. Ella and Sparkle have found something special – each other. A woman can walk a mile with a dying dog without realizing he is heavy. Love happens.
Time and attention are the currency of friendship. Once you are lucky enough to have a friend, it changes you forevermore. Friendships, like love, are the small treasures bestowed upon us that make life worth living. To witness love is as joyful as watching a raven communicate with a horse and as sorrowful as hearing his plaintive call when she is gone. It is as special as watching an elderly man see the future potential in a young boy. Dear Readers, may friendship find you.