Thursday, May 21, 2009

Some Friends Are Extra Special

Special friends.
Who doesn’t need a special friend?
I am fortunate to have one such friend through a program in my home county of Haywood (Tenn.). The program originates through the University of Tennessee Extension Service and it is simply called the Special Friends Program.
A mentoring program, the way it works is we lucky adults are paired with some really special kids that might need some added attention and direction.
We go to lunch with them at school (Haywood County School System) from time to time. We talk about grades. We read books. We work on things they might be having problems with.
We become special friends.
My special friend and I have been meeting since he was in kindergarten. He is about to go in the sixth grade now.
The first time I met him. He told me, “my daddy is in jail.”
I told him I knew that. I had read about it in the paper, and then I went on to stretch the truth a bit, perhaps, about the unknown. “It will be alright,” I said.
What else could I say?
Then I told him a truth that I believed with all my heart to be true: “Life is about choices. We have always got to try and make good ones.”
We have gotten along rather well in the years that have followed. We laugh a lot, but the best times we have had together have been when we have gone fishing.
Such was the case when he and I recently took part in the Special Friends annual group-fishing trip to the home of Nan and Steve Darnaby. About 30 or so folks gathered together, baited hooks, caught fish, ate hot dogs and laughed—a lot.
Some kids caught their first fish and that is a treat in itself.
(I think those that don’t believe in magic have simply never seen a kid catch their first fish, but that is for another column.)
Now, I don’t mean to brag, but my special friend caught the biggest catfish of the day! (So what if it was the only catfish?) We secretly celebrated that, just me and him.
I know I am supposed to be teaching my special friend something, but sometimes I wonder if I have taught him anything other than to be goofy; which he probably has picked up mostly by association with me (bless his heart).
But I do know he has taught me a lot, my special friend.
And I am grateful.
We should all be so lucky as to have a special friend to go fishing with, to read a book or to share a life lesson now and then.

To learn more about the Special Friends in Haywood County contact Peggy Jackson at The Haywood County Family Resource Center (731) 772-2861.

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