I was not raised in a Christian home. In fact, the congregation I most attended was Unitarian. However, I was occasionally permitted to visit a community church up the street from where we lived due to my father’s insistence that I at least hear about the teachings of Jesus.
And, so it was there I’d heard about Christ through a loving Sunday school teacher—I wish I could remember her name—who made every effort to share with me the Gospel of Jesus. I’ll never forget the beautiful mural on the wall of that Sunday school room, depicting Christ with the little children sitting on the ground all around Him and forming a circle at His feet.
I wanted to be included. Why I wanted to sit at His feet and learn from the Master, too.
Later in my life, after my parents were divorced and that little community church was no longer geographically accessible to me, I began to attend an Episcopal Church across the street from where my mother and I were living at the time. There, at Christ Church, I met the boy who would become my best friend. His name was Joel.
Joel also attended my middle school and, now that we were church buddies, he often looked out for me since he was more man than boy, if you know what I mean. There was just no getting around it: I was scrawny for my age. But Joel was an athlete, like his brother Jack, and he made sure that no one picked on me anymore.
Joel’s house was not large, but his heart was, and he’d let me spend the night whenever my mom was out of town. We’d always have tacos and orange juice—what a crazy combination; but I loved it. Mostly because Joel loved it and I wanted like anything to be just like him.
And, since Joel was an altar boy, I became one, too. “Sacristy rats” we were called. And, I enjoyed every “bells and smells” experience Christ Church would offer me. You see, for me, it was like being in heaven; made all the more wonderful because Joel was by my side.
And, although, Joel has long since passed on to glory, he’s still with me and his prayers still keep me from harm’s way. Someday I’ll share more about this remarkable boyhood friend. But, for now, I guess I just wanted to write about him—to see his beautiful name printed across my computer screen: J-O-E-L, my best friend.