People are afraid to say the word “love”. People are afraid to show platonic love. Busy schedules take over everyone’s lives, the urbanization of life isolates people, and that isolation drives them into selfish, introverted routines. In short, between this and the corrupted culture, the people that make up most of the world have little interest in loving one another, and those who do are under the constant spotlight of others, who pervert and distort a beautiful thing into an abominable one.
Everything I’ve just said may or may not be true, but it is the way I see the world. I could go into this, but the topic of this issue is not what love is, but what friendship and love have come to mean in my life.
As I have said before, I spent much of my life as a social outcast, mainly because of my own problems. But in eighth grade, after I had spent a year fitting in with a low-class crowd of kids, a classmate of mine whom I had hardly met endeavored to raise me out of the society which I had sunken into.
Evan was a constant mystery to me. In sixth grade, he seemed like one of the “normal” people. He wasn’t mean like a lot of kids, but at the same time, he made it clear that he had no interest in getting to know me.
I didn’t see him much during the next year. Instead, I was focused on being acceptable in the crowd of kids that bullied people, got into trouble, and made lousy grades.
But at the beginning of eighth grade, Evan made himself known again. He urged me to work with him on group projects in the class we shared, and to spend time with him instead of the Troublemakers. My initial response to him, however, was rather negative. I told him—not rudely, but in no friendly terms—that he hadn’t wanted anything to do with me before, so I didn’t care for his company.
I had no sooner told Evan to take a hike than I regretted doing so. I was already starting to grow tired of the impact and influence that the Troublemakers were having on my life. I had started to move away from them more often, allowing my grades and reputation to improve. But this was causing me to drift into a very lonely in-between place, and I had just ruined a golden opportunity to change this.
To my surprise, however, Evan did not give up. He waited for about a month and then started again. Therefore, I began to accept his invitations, and by the time eighth grade was well underway, I had reached a level of success that surpassed many of my classmates.
The story is told in other issues of how the next two years passed, bringing with them a series of tragedies and miracles. The result of these unpredictable events was that I found myself in a warm, welcoming, and Godly community at Bryan College.
It was here that I learned what a friend was. Here at Bryan, your friend is the person who takes the time to ask how you are. He notices when something is wrong and truly wants to help make it right. He shares in your victories and mourns over your hardships. He commits to being present when you need him most and makes himself present even when you have no need. And he does all of these things from his heart, not conditioning his friendship on yours, nor expecting anything in return.
Throughout this experience, I have developed my own sense of friendship. Friendship is the state of two people being each other’s friends. Indeed, friends often come in pairs, but this must not be taken for granted. A friendship demands the constant devotion of each to the other. At the same time, one friend will continue to love the other, even if the other ceases to do so. And in many cases, it is this simple act of unconditional friendship that creates and reunites friends, even amid the harshest conflicts.
I didn’t expect to keep the acquaintances that I met at Bryan College during my first year as a Dual Enrollment student. I was therefore somewhat surprised when I returned that summer for a camp, and then the next year for another DE course. A few of the people I had known reached out to me, some of whom I had nearly forgotten. And they didn’t just say hi, either. They asked about how I was doing, how school was going, and if I planned on attending Bryan full-time. They also remembered things that I had not mentioned frequently, things that no ordinary stranger would know or care to remember.
This is one of the main reasons that I am so dedicated to Bryan College. It is a small campus, small enough to form a community and yet large enough to be a big one, and I am finding that this is a community that loves God and each other. It is hard to find two people who haven’t heard of each other, and almost everyone can name a handful of people whom they consider to be close friends. In short, I found a place where my utopian dreams of community life display themselves as reality—the reality I see at Bryan College.
As a result, I have become a much more outgoing person socially. I am told that people see me as the one to lead, the one to ask for a solution. I don’t know about these things personally, because most of my reputation has spread in my absence. But I do know that I get along with people more easily in general, and people must think well of me, because good rumors seldom spread about ill-thought-of people.
One day, I shall face the world, and find myself in the midst of a hostile public. But first, I must venture into the world of Bryan College, where the meaning of Godly love, friendship, and community are clearly understood, and their principles and values are widely practiced.
This issue of Strange and Miraculous Ways is part of a series, “Memoirs of a Future Bryan Lion“, but the next issue is not in the series.