As Cherry watched the caliber of people standing up at her husband, John’s, funeral, she was angry. She thought back to a conversation she had with him in their kitchen after he had gotten back from drinks with a friend. She had said, “It seems like whenever you hang out with Kendrick you come back drained.”
“Yeah, I guess a little bit." John had said. "But he’s been a good friend; he’s always the one reaching out to me."
“Yeah that’s a little concerning. Doesn’t he have anyone else to call?”
John thought for a second. “I kinda get the feeling maybe not a lot. He kinda burns people out.”
“Yeah, I think most people would say to take people that drain you out of your life. I’m just trying to watch out for your mission, Hunny. You don’t have time for people to bring you down with what you’re trying to do with the Literacy Truck.”
John was still thinking about her previous comment. “Maybe he does burn people out. But maybe that’s why I need to be there for him: because he’s got no one else.”
Aside from his normal, cool-ish friends, John had a handful of these misfit friends. All a little awkward, uncool, and a little unhealthy sometimes. He seemed to attract them. And giving attention to each and their floundering troubles had taken up a lot of his time and brainpower each week. But now this guy Kendrick was the last of about 5 of those misfit friends who had gotten up to speak about John in front of everybody. Each of them had said something similar and with comparable conviction.
Cherry was fighting being angry with every single one of them, for taking advantage of her husband's kindness. How she had longed for John's friendships to be life-giving to him. And the Literacy truck dream, it always seemed to get delayed by one of their emergencies. Tears were there, but they were mostly angry ones.
“I know John always had dreams of doing that Literacy Truck,” Kendrick said with a shaking voice. “He wanted," He looked down and read, "to help people discover truth and experiences God wanted them to have, but that they didn't have access to in this world."
She nodded, realizing this was indeed directly from the mission statement he had developed for it.
Kendrick continued, "But that is what he did for me (and it sounds like for these other fine gents too) better than any book could. Books could never have patience on me, nor mercy, nor the gentle words of justice John gave me. Books could never be committed to me, in the way my parents and my siblings should have been." Cherry marveled. She had never heard Kendrick this serious and articulate. She wanted to be mad at Kendrick, but this is how he had hoped to change people's lives with the Truck.
"Don’t get me wrong." Kendrick continued, "Dude set good boundaries and sometimes it pissed me off. But over the long haul, John was the most most committed person in my life. I couldn't have shook him off if I tried. And I suppose I probably even tried that, just to see if he would leave. He said he's a Christian. So now I’ll forever know what makes Christians different. Sticking around when no one else will.”
And suddenly Cherry realized, this was why he continued helping them, because he had heard the call to love when they had no more to gain from it. She had thought John’s mission was to help needy poor, hungry, illiterate, inner city children. What he had done was indeed help the needy. She just didn’t realize the needy to help are sometimes right around us, those asking for our help, even perhaps our frustrating, awkward, imbalanced, draining friends.
Who in your life wants to hang out with you a little more than you want to hang out with them. Who is a little bit draining? How can you give them a little bit more love?