Advent begins for me with my annual Christmas list that I send to my family. It is chock full of wants such as world peace, a pick up truck, and other fantasies. This year as I was preparing my list, I thought of a time long ago when my list was much shorter. One year it might include a new football, an orange, and almost every year I’d ask for a new model airplane kit. Too long a list made you a candidate for ashes and switches.
Truth was I wasn’t very good at putting together model airplanes. The glue ended up everywhere, the decals were askew, and if I dared to paint a piece I made a total mess. As you can imagine, model airplane kits were not high on Santa’s list. Model making skills belonged to my friend Doug who lived down the street. Doug was a whizz at putting models planes and ships together — Not a spot of glue anywhere and every piece painted just right.
Doug had other skills. He could draw and paint better than any of my classmates, while I couldn’t draw a straight line with a ruler. He was funny and popular, where I was shy. Doug was hardly perfect. He got in trouble with the teachers all the time for cutting up in class, and he had no skill whatsoever with any sport that involved a ball, something at which I excelled. So our friendship was one of opposites. He spent time with me helping me put together my model planes and teaching me enough about art techniques so that I didn’t flunk art class. I spent lots of time teaching him to catch a football with his hands and how to get in front of a ground ball. When we chose sides for a ball game in the neighborhood, I made sure Doug was on my side and wasn’t the last kid chosen for Doug made up for his lack of athletic skill with a love of sports and enthusiasm. We would pool our allowances to buy baseball cards. The memories wash over me like a gentle rain.
We grew up and went to different junior high schools and then I moved to Montgomery in the summer of 62. We lost total track of each other and except for hearing from a mutual friend about “whatever happened to Doug,” we never saw each other after I left Memphis.
As children our differences didn’t pull us apart, instead they brought us closer together. We used our unique skills to help each other, a lesson I was reminded of when I sat down to make this year’s Christmas list. Why? Well the one thing we never did was exchange Christmas gifts. You see Doug’s family were jewish and my family were Presbyterians. Our parents let the difference get in the way and that’s all that needs to be said about their relationship. Fortunately two children had better sense. Their lives were much richer because of their “Friendship Of Differences.”