78: No One Is a Stranger

78: No One Is a Stranger

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls

No One Is a Stranger

Everyone has a gift for something, even if it is the gift of being a good friend.

~Marian Anderson

I’m a military brat. My father was a marine officer before my birth and until I started high school. We moved twelve times in fourteen years. When people learn this, they ask, “How did you ever make friends with anyone? That must have been hard on you.”

I know my parents worried about my three brothers and me every time we changed schools. Military transfers happened often and they happened fast — usually within a few weeks of orders. If my family wasn’t in transition, then someone we knew was moving.

But I don’t think it was difficult. Quite the opposite is true. Each move was an opportunity to grow and a chance for adventure.

About once a year my parents announced, “We’re being transferred.” Then the map came out and we’d huddle.

“This is where we are. This is where we’re going.” My father’s fingers landed on our current home, and with the other hand, he pinpointed our final destination.

My mother reminded us, “You may be sad about leaving your best friend here, but you will make a new one where we’re going.”

I learned she was right.

Even though I left behind best buddies, I never dreaded the moves or shed tears when we left one military base for another. I can’t say we enjoyed goodbyes as we waved to friends out the car window, but military families learn to adjust and even anticipate the journey.

At every base, there was a mass of children to befriend. And each military child was connected. We each knew the angst of leaving behind friends and the eagerness to make new ones. We felt the sadness of leaving behind a favorite hiding place mingled with the thrill of finding a new one at the next locale. We discovered the East had true changes of season that were completely different from the short autumns and winters of the West. We were exposed to each state’s history and these experiences were a common thread among military children.

Military transfers taught me the meaning of acceptance. Diversity was something to be embraced, not shunned. I heard the twang of Louisianans, the slow drawl of Texans, and the “far out” of laidback Californians. I learned Northerners and Southerners have opposite demeanors. I learned no matter where someone came from, or how different we were, we had something in common that could be the foundation of a friendship.

As an adult, the moves we made have served me well. Meeting folks from different backgrounds gave me the ability to mingle in a crowd of strangers. As a military child, I didn’t wait for someone to befriend me; I stepped up and introduced myself. A kid is just a kid, no matter their birthplace. And there was always the chance of another transfer looming around the corner. Like a sprinter near the finish line, when I made friends, each second counted.

Knowing we’re all on the busy racetrack of life, I still rely on this trait. If I see someone standing alone at a party, I’ll head towards them with a smile. If I see someone sitting alone at the doctor’s office, I’ll strike up a conversation. Yes, at times the other person may not be receptive, but there’s always the chance the first hello will become a forever friend.

I stay in touch with several from my childhood. Karen gives me accommodations when I’m in California. Elizabeth opens her doors when I’m in Virginia. We don’t live close to one another or see each other often, but we value our friendship and reminisce about the adventure our military upbringing provided.

Because of my military experience, my adult friends are varied and numerous. They keep my life dynamic. They challenge me to be a better person, give me support during down times, and grant forgiveness for my flaws.

As a military brat I can’t say, “I’ve lived in this house for twenty years.” But I’m blessed to have gained lifelong friendships and characteristics that move my life in a positive direction every day.

~Gail Molsbee Morris

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