Saturday, April 6, 2013

F is for First Mississippi Friend


The day I got my library card was the day I made my first friend. I had stayed at the library longer than I thought I would so when I finally got to check out my books it was dark outside. I still had to walk home. Lee, the security guard on duty at the library, asked me if I'd like him to walk me out. I felt embarrassed because I wasn't just walking outside to my car; I had to walk the six or seven block all the way home. Immediately afraid of the prospect, and also not wanting to tell him I was walking, I told him that I'd be okay.

He insisted and so, once I had my books checked out, he escorted me out to the parking lot. I sheepishly told him that I hadn't driven and had to walk home. This shocked him, and he walked me to the edge of the parking lot warning me about the many homeless people who hang around the library. I told him that if walking in this neighborhood at night was a bad idea then I'd never do it again.

He said, "I like you. You have a sweet spirit. I don't want anything to happen to you. I don't want to see your face in the papers."

Grateful for his concern, and thoroughly freaked out about walking home in this new (and apparently scary) city, I shook his hand before making my march out of the parking lot. I didn't look back (mostly out of embarrassment), but I'm certain he stood there watching me until I was out of sight.

A few days later I met Lee at the library again. This time he walked me outside (to show me where the after hours drop boxes are), and I assured him that I had driven this time--I was very proud of myself. He was glad to know I'd driven as well. We got to talking a little bit about our lives (my writing and firefighting), and he said, "You came into my life at an interesting time."  Then he shared a story with me about how his house burned from a grease fire. I don't know why, but I felt an equal desire to protect him and help him that he had shown for protecting me. I gave him some tips about grease fires (use salt or flour to put it out, not water) and encouraged him to get a fire extinguisher.
Before he went back to his duties in the library, he said, "I think we're going to be friends."
I smiled and said, "We already are friends."

I kind of thought that I'd make friends with someone more my own age and gender and such. Instead I met Lee who is probably in his fifties or sixties. He is a big, black man. He's not really what I expected to find, but at the same time he is everything I wanted. I desperately wanted a friend in Mississippi. And  I'm not sure why him, but I'm reminded of that concept of humanity--when you strip all these labels or expectations of age and race, gender, career, and sexual orientation, all that's left is simply humanness. What's left is a person with a family, a history, and love.

One of these days, I hope I can get a picture with Lee, because it will really show the contrast between us on the outside. Hopefully my words can show all the similarities we have, though.

This is a "poem" that I'm working on. It needs a little help, still, but I just had to share about my very first friend in Mississippi.

My First Mississippi Friend

Some people say "never judge a book by it's cover."
This is especially true in libraries,
but also in friendship.

Since I moved to Jackson I've been on the lookout for a new friend.
Someone smart like me,
with similar interests and common values.

When I saw Lee sitting behind the counter
as I waited to check out my stack of books,
I had no idea he would be my first Mississippi friend.

On the outside we have nothing in common.
Not age
or gender.
Not height or weight
or skin color.
But in just a few minutes we both sensed a kindred spirit in each other.
And after two brief conversations,
I learned that we're more alike than two people with all the same physical traits could be.
We both love our families.
Fire has played a significant role in both our lives.
We both work to keep people safe.
We have a shared passion for writings and history,
which is probably why we found each other
at the only place in town where you can read books for free.

When I saw Lee sitting behind the counter
as I waited to check out my stack of books,
I had no idea he would be my first Mississippi friend.

Some people say, "never judge a book by its cover."
This is especially true in libraries,
but also in friendship.


Write on!

3 comments:

  1. What a great story about making a friend and connecting it to the library. Things of so much value no price tag should ever be put on them.

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  2. Beautiful post, this. I think it's wonderful when life hands us an opportunity, and we have the presence of mind to see it for the blessing it is. Thanks for sharing your story about kindred spirits. Love it.

    Best,
    Joe
    G: Gold's Plated

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  3. Love it :) The best friends are often the unexpected ones!
    - A-Z :)
    Bonniegwyn.blogspot.com

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