60: The Assignment I Never Wanted

60: The Assignment I Never Wanted

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls

The Assignment I Never Wanted

A true friend reaches for your hand and touches your heart.

~Attributed to Heather Pryor

A new family of eight joined our church. Their first Sunday at church, they sang, as a family, a beautiful hymn for the congregation. Their perfect pitch and blending of voices awed me, humbled me, and filled me with envy. Why, I wondered, couldn’t my family do that?

Following church services, I mentioned it to my husband. “We can’t sing,” he said bluntly.

I knew he was right. Our family members weren’t singers. And sometimes we didn’t even get along very well either. We love each other. But sometimes we just get on each other’s nerves.

I made up my mind then and there that I couldn’t possibly like the mother of this talented, happy brood. Not only had she accompanied her family on the piano, she appeared to have it all together. She was young, blond, and flawlessly groomed. Obviously, she was perfect — very unlike my own flawed self.

Life has a way of throwing us curves, though. I found myself assigned to visit this lady to welcome her to the church. How could I do that with any kind of sincerity and warmth?

Reluctantly, I paid her a visit… and was immediately charmed. Her humor, her unstudied grace, her matter-of-fact approach to life put me instantly at ease.

Within minutes, we found that we shared much in common. We each had roots in Appalachia. We each had big families. We each knew how to pinch a penny. We were each avid garage salers.

More than a little ashamed, I confessed to her that I had decided that I couldn’t like her. She laughed delightedly. “You thought my family was perfect?” she asked.

I nodded.

She laughed again. “We’re as far from perfect as you can get.”

“Tell me.”

We proceeded to share stories of our imperfect selves, families, and lives. We discovered that both our husbands were independent-minded, didn’t take orders well, and had started their own businesses. We shared stories of living on rice and beans and love and little else.

Today, this woman and I are best friends. Every Friday, we attend garage sales together and compete to see who can find the best bargain. On birthdays, we give each other gag gifts and delight in playing practical jokes on each other.

We have been friends for sixteen years now and grow to appreciate each other more with every year. How had I ever thought that I couldn’t like her?

Hasty judgments and foolish pride had almost turned me away from a woman who would become an important and precious part of my life.

Friendships are frequently found when we aren’t looking. I stumbled across this one and have been thankful ever since for the assignment I never wanted.

~Jane McBride Choate

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