Families with special needs have to complete a ridiculous amount of paperwork. We go through yearly evaluations that seem totally unnecessary. Often answering the same questions over and over again. No, he still can’t do this, this, or that. He hasn’t been hospitalized. Yes, he still needs help doing this, this, and that. I get it. Sorta. I understand there is a small chance that a new insight, a developed skill, a different answer might influence a person’s eligibility in a program. But, come on, I want to say, ‘nothing has changed—make a copy from last year and I’ll sign it.’ But the question that has brought me to tears, the one hard, dreaded question that gets me every time is, “does Jacob have friends?”
I remember when Mike and I first got on Facebook, we were literally comparing and competing with each other to see who could get the most friends. All in good fun, right? And honestly, we all have some FB ‘friends’ that don’t even really know us. They may know our mom or dad or dog. But 808 real friends? Hardly.
“If you have two friends in your lifetime, you’re lucky. If you have one good friend, you’re more than lucky.” ― S.E. Hinton
I watch guys that attend the same day program as Jacob and there is a camaraderie among them. Obviously friends. And then when I’m asked the hard question, it seems Jacob doesn’t have those relationships. It would stump me. It would make my eyes water. It would frustrate me. I’d think ‘No, and quit asking me that same question.’ The truth is, he can make it hard to be his friend. He doesn’t want people around him. Most are afraid of him. Friendship requires similar likes and dislikes. Something in common. Communication. Trust.
See, I had a certain view, my own definition of what it means to be a friend. Neighborhood pals. Someone from school to play soccer with on the playground. A person you’d go home with after church and spend the afternoon building forts. Someone who would invite you to their birthday party. I’d picture Jacob’s brother with his gang of friends hanging out together every chance they got. Before and after they could drive, seems they spent every waking minute possible together.
I’d think back to friendships I’ve had that have stood the test of time. And how I aim to be intentional to be a good friend, to make new friends, and develop genuine relationships. Friends are so important. Friends are supportive. Friends know us and love us anyway. A life without friends seems dreary indeed.
Then. Then it dawned on me. Jacob doesn’t have friends in the typical sense but he certainly has friends. I’m sure he considers our family members, friends. His sitters are people I believe he counts as friends. Teachers through the years are definitely friends! We’ve had neighbors who have wholeheartedly ‘friended’ him. I became keenly aware of how blessed he’s been to have long time friends in his life and they are all family, sitters, neighbors, and teachers. I think if Jacob could talk, they are the people in his life he’d name as friends. Those are all people that he looks forward to seeing. I’m sure his heart his smiling when they are around.
When I think about what being Jacob’s friend means, in many ways, it is a one-sided, out-of-balance relationship. There is no confiding with the other of secrets or fears. No going on adventures. No sharing dreams. But there is understanding. There is trust. There is a pure heart with no agenda. And I am reminded that friendship means loving another person at all times.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
8 Love never fails –
I realized Jacob has the best sort of friends. They are there for him whether he can be there for them or not.
We are blessed beyond measure by our friends and those that are Jacob’s friends. I’d call them angels on earth.