When my daughter was in later elementary school, Hannah was her best friend. Hannah ate at our table. Hannah slept at our house. Hannah went to church with us. For a couple of years, the two girls found every excuse possible to be together.
Then Hannah’s mother remarried and moved to the other side of town. It was only a few miles, but you know how it is. It’s one thing for nine-year-olds to run between houses, and more complicated to arrange play-dates across town. The girls saw each other every now and then, but as they got older they drifted apart.
Honestly, though, the drifting was more on my daughter’s end. By then she had a new best friend. (Now Kaylee ate at our table, slept at our house, and went to church with us.)
Hannah used to call at random intervals and we would hear the latest news. Her own family started going to church, something they never did when she was little. Her mother and stepfather came to faith. She boldly called herself a Christian. When she graduated from high school early, Hannah sent us an announcement. She went out of state on a well earned scholarship and trained as a nurse. I always had a vague idea of where Hannah was, and remembered her fondly, but life had moved us all on.
Then the doorbell rang one spring day and there stood Hannah. Twenty-one years old, a credentialed nurse recently returned to town and working in the E.R.—and wife to a young Army man. Together they worked in the youth ministry of their church. My daughter was not home, but I was glad to chat with Hannah. In the back of my mind, though, I wondered why it was so important to her to come by after ten years and talk at length with me.
She was finally old enough to put words on the reason for the random unreciprocated contacts through the years. It wasn’t just my daughter. It was all of us. It was the intact family she didn’t have. It was a dad in the home who showed her that all fathers did not have to be what hers had been. It was her earliest taste of a community of faith. It was wide-eyed discovery of the love of God. She traced her own faith journey to the first night she sat at our table. I think it was a ham and potato slow cooker dish.
Yes, I cried.
My daughter had a string of best friends in her growing up years. There was Emma and Danielle and Hannah and Kaylee and Chelsie and Christy and Kaitlin. Some were in our home more than others. I was a working mom just trying to keep order in the household and no doubt feeling guilty that I did not do enough for my kids. I did not know the power of what was happening at the time.
I write fiction partly because of the power of stories like this. We’re all living stories.
What chapter might you be writing right now and not even know it?