The Fragrance of Friendship

May 10, 2014 at 1:42 pm


“We faithfully tilled the soils of friendship, transforming a story of ‘Bramble and Thorns’ into the beauty of a ‘Bouquet of Roses.”


The recess bell rang, and hundreds of school children swarmed the playground, freedom bound. Kids bolted in every direction in an every-man-for-himself pursuit of their favorite playground equipment. Hand in hand, toddled towards the elusive jungle gym. Third graders pushed and shoved their way towards the swings. Fourth graders stormed the slides, and my fifth grade classmates and I sprinted for the baseball field. Recess lasted only thirty minutes. So our game always ended up at the top of the ‘shortest game in history’ list. But, it never failed to be the best thirty minutes of our day. For even in that short time frame, each of us found a strange contentment just being in the presence of our friends. That is…with the exception of one.

Darcy Fincklwitz forced her way into our line-up that day. She called no one friend. To my knowledge, Darcy never participated in anything ever. If a room had a corner, Darcy could be found sitting in it. She stayed in the shadows of every school event. Her dark eyes hid behind a black curtain of bangs hanging loosely over the precipice of a permanently scowling brow. She walked by herself to and from school and avoided talking to any of us. Given the choice, most of us assumed Darcy would have turned down walking with her own shadow.

“Of all days for me to be chosen captain of one of the baseball teams!” I cried out silently. “Why Darcy…and why today?”

The other team captain, Nicholas, and I flipped a rusty bottle cap for first pick. Nicholas won.

“Frank…I choose you first!” Nicholas yelled out with a smile.

Feeling the pressure to choose quickly, I yelled out a name at random.

“Evan! …come on over!”

I found myself so preoccupied with trying to avoid looking in Darcy’s direction that I couldn’t even concentrate. Nicholas and I batted a couple more picks back and forth until it came down to choosing from the last two people. And you guessed it! Darcy was one of the two.

“It’s your turn Hutty (My childhood nickname)…chop chop! Time’s wastin!”Nicholas reminded me, clapping his hands together.

Had I known in fifth grade the term, “heart palpitation” I would have known what to call what I experienced at this point. I could feel my palms drenched with the waters of my dilemma. Though Darcy stood speechless, I could almost hear her screaming out, “Pick me…please…just choose ME!”
The next thing I remember hearing is Nicholas shouting, “Let’s play ball!” and seeing Darcy heading straight for me.

“What did I just do?” I thought to myself, forcing a smile in Darcy’s direction. My voice seemed to have a mind of its own today; it answered me back saying, “I just chose Darcy Fincklwitz …the class giant…to be on my team.”

Time stood still on the elementary ball field that afternoon when Darcy bent down to pick up a bat. All of us took a deep breath as we watched her take a few wild practice swings. For one brief moment, we panicked. Evan leaned over whispering his warning in my ear.

“Way to go, Hutty,”” He said. You may have just found a way to arm the ‘enemy!’”

Darcy glanced back at us for a brief moment, and then stepped up to the plate to bat. But before she had a chance to swing the bat again, the bell ending recess rang and we all scrambled back to class.

I know that Darcy heard us talking in the background that day. She never said a word to any of us about anything. But after school I found her sitting on the steps outside…alone. I wanted to say something…anything…but I didn’t. As I started past her to catch up with my friends, she hollered out my name. I didn’t even know that she knew my name. Before I could even turn around she stood beside me. Her figure towered over me. I swallowed hard.

“Uh…thanks for being on…uh…the team today, Darcy,” I managed to spit out before her two giant arms reached over and put me in a headlock. Her reaction stunned me. If this wasn’t bad enough, she then took off walking with my head still under her arm. Convinced that she might be delivering me as a parcel of ‘rearranged flesh’ on my own front porch, I started praying! The thought of death at such a young age didn’t appeal to me. Especially death-by-Darcy! Her grip held my ear so firmly up against her rib cage that I could hear her heart pounding like a metronome keeping fast and furious time to a very angry song. A song with just two words… “Kill Hutty! … Kill Hutty!” She dragged me along, stumbling to keep up with her, for five l-o-n-g blocks. Then she just stopped. Still in a headlock, Darcy spoke for the first time since we left the school grounds.

“So, Hutty! Wanna be friends?” she said in a gruff tone.

“I…I guess so,” I answered from my head locked position.

Darcy seemed satisfied enough with my answer to let me stand upright again. Still dazed and confused, but grateful for having my death sentence lifted; I found myself standing at the bottom of my own street. In light of everything else that happened today, I supposed this might be Darcy’s own bizarre way of walking me home from school. She ended this grand entrance into my life with one final scene. Reaching up, she parted the black curtain of bangs across her forehead just long enough to introduce me to two of the saddest brown eyes I’ve ever seen. Then the curtain dropped and the scene ended as quickly as it had begun. Darcy turned and headed for home and I stood there wondering what just happened.

Comedy of Errors? I think not. Years later now, I prefer to gaze on this scene in my life story as more of a Divine Interruption. A truly unique way of God ushering friendship into an orphan’s life. You see, Darcy learned the art of ‘invisibility’ early in her life. Her mom, a school teacher, taught other people’s kids. Her dad, an efficiency expert, organized other people’s lives. At home…both mom and dad alternated shifts around the clock with Darcy’s older brother, Jerry. He suffered from a serious heart condition at birth. And Darcy? She faded into the background and disappeared. At school the story repeated itself. Teased and taunted by class mates, Darcy roamed alone; staying in the shadows life cast on her convinced of her unworthiness to merit anyone’s time and attention.

You see, every one of us as human beings has felt the unbearable ache of being swept aside and held prisoner by life and its unwanted circumstances. It is the heart-sting of orphanism. The gut wrenching loneliness of being abandoned in the streets of our own surroundings…left alone to provide somehow for our needs by scratching around in the dirt and alley ways of an unsympathetic world for love. We find ourselves desperately hungry for more than just the crumbs that others toss our way. It is emptiness beyond comprehension, and a deep longing in the caverns of our soul for someone to look deep into our eyes and listen to our story.

God used a headlock to draw me into Darcy Fincklwitz’s life story. When others might have viewed this scene as bullying; I believe God used her rib cage as a sounding board for my ears …as a way of revealing to me that Darcy had a heart after all. I learned from a unique perspective, about grace and mercy as she dragged me down that pathway headed for what I perceived as ‘sure death,’ only to be given a reprieve at the end of it all. I felt an orphan’s grasp, desperate for someone to walk along-side of her and listen to the cries of her heart. To share the pain hiding behind the loneliness that veiled those two sad eyes.

Each one of us has felt the desperation that drives us to act out of a deep longing in our soul to ‘belong’ in our world. To experience the thrill of being chosen; adopted into the shelter of someone’s circle of love and acceptance. If we are ignored long enough, we begin believing in the lies of a world that gladly steps in and tries to tell us who we are. We lose sight of who we are created to be…a child, forever precious in the eyes of our greatest Friend, our Loving Heavenly Father. We are souls created to love and to be loved. God gives each one of us a special role to play in life. A role which propels us head first into a moving dramatization of a search for companionship. An arduous journey that ever pushes us towards a continuous and growing love for others in life.

God used a thirty minute segment from a childhood baseball game and Darcy Fincklwitz, to set the stage for a lifelong lesson in my life. We are not alone on the stage of our life. Sometimes we are not even the main characters. Blinded by the spotlight shining down on us, too often we fail to notice the orphans hiding in silent misery behind the curtains on the side wings. Waiting…longing for a part in our story; and needing us to play a part in their story. Only when our stories intersect with those of others will we ever discover what King David of Old realized as he entered into the heights of his own story; “… it was for a special reason—to give joy to God’s people.” (1 Chronicles 14:2 LAB)

Darcy and I spent the next eight years of school together as friends. We plodded side by side, through the bramble and thorns of her life story. Darcy’s world really never changed on the outside. Her brother remained sickly; her parents, too busy for her. Even in high school, kids continued to taunt Darcy; and now me, for choosing to walk alongside her. But at the end of it all do you know what we each discovered? Joy. Though we stuck out in this world like sore-thumbs; Darcy Fincklwitz and I ended up as green-thumbs. The undeniable evidence of growth in our journey towards friendship. From head-locked, to hand-held, to heart-felt— we faithfully tilled the soils of friendship and in doing so, transformed the loneliness of a story of “Bramble and Thorns” into the beauty of a “Bouquet of Roses.” It is the Fragrance of Friendship…a fragrance that lingers for the span of a lifetime!