An experience during my first year of junior high school could have left me emotionally wounded and scarred for years; but it turned out to be one of the best times in my life—all because of a very special friend.
That year, the girls my age started forming groups. There were several different groups, but “the group” consisted of the most popular girls in the school. All of my friends belonged to the group and so did I to begin with. But then something happened. I’m not exactly sure what.
One day Bonnie, one of the most popular girls in school, came up to me and told me I was kicked out of the group.
“But why?” I asked. “What did I do?”
“We just don’t want you to associate with us anymore,” said Bonnie.
I realized then that I needed to find a new friend. I thought I could make the group jealous and they’d realized they weren’t hurting me. So I made a new friend. Her name was Vicki. I picked Vicki because I was certain that the group would never pay any attention to her. She was really short, thin, and not exactly pretty. But she turned out to be a wonderful friend.
Vicki and I shared a lot of good times together. We both seemed to enjoy doing the same kinds of things. I was beginning to like being with her so much that I decided I didn’t need the group as long as there was Vicki.
Shortly after Vicki and I became friends, we were sitting on the school lawn sharing sodas and candy and doing a lot of laughing. All of a sudden, Vicki got real serious. She stopped laughing and began fumbling with a candy wrapper. When she finally looked at me, I could tell she had something important on her mind.
“What’s up?” I asked.
Vicki struggled for a minute to control her voice before answering. “I’ve never had a best friend before,” she said looking at me straight in the eye. “Can we promise we’ll be best friends forever?”
“Sure,” I said feeling great. I smiled as I picked up a candy wrapper. “I’d like that, too.”
Some time later, the group started to take notice of Vicki. “Come on, Vicki,” they’d say. “Come eat with us,” or “Why don’t you associate with us, Vicki?”
At first, Vicki declined, but then the invitations got to be too irresistible.
I remember that day clearly. When I got to school, I headed straight for Vicki’s locker as usual. From down the hall I could see the group surrounding her. The closer I came, the louder and merrier their laughter grew. A couple of my former friends looked sideways at me before throwing their heads back in forced bursts of laughter.
Vicki didn’t look at me. She was too absorbed in all the attention. I guess I couldn’t blame her for that. But had she already forgotten our promise?
Just then the girls in the group all linked arms with Vicki in the middle and gaily marched down the hall. They went right by me as if I weren’t even there.
This time I was really upset. I tried not to let the group see how much they were hurting me, but they could tell they were getting through.
Then one day it happened—one of the greatest experiences of my life. Suddenly I realized I had a friend that the group could never take away, someone who would always be there, someone I could talk to at any time, someone who would never forsake me.
As I made this startling discovery, I noticed a warm sensation starting to grow in my heart. It grew until I felt totally engulfed in it. I realized that it was my Heavenly Father telling me that he loves me. I wanted to shout, laugh, or cry. I felt so new, so special, so loved.
A short time later, Bonnie approached me. “How are you?” she asked uncomfortably.
“Fine,” I said with a puzzled expression. There was a lengthy period of silence as she struggled to continue.
“We were just wondering,” Bonnie began, “we thought that you might like to spend some time with us again. You see, we had a vote and, well, most of us still like you.”
“Thanks,” I said, “I’ll see what I can do.” It felt good to have them want me back, but I realized then that being in the group somehow wasn’t all that important anymore.
Through that experience, I had found a true friend whom I wanted to do something for, in return for what He had done for me. I remembered the scripture that said: “Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:37). So I started looking around for someone who needed a friend.