A boy I knew from high school joined the Navy after we graduated. I can’t remember if we met before I dropped out of Junior Army ROTC at the end of the 10th grade or if he worked at the Jitney Jungle where I stocked shelves and bagged groceries part-time. I am sure that I visited the farm where he lived at least once, but can’t remember his name.

I have forgotten the names and faces of hundreds of my high school classmates over the past 42 years including some that I spent a great deal more time with than this boy. I remember him because he asked for my address when he was preparing to leave for the Navy. He wanted to write to friends back home when he was gone, so he asked for my address.

Remembering that moment makes me sad today. I was surprised when he asked for my address because I didn’t think of us as friends. I liked him okay, but didn’t see him as part of my life. I felt a little sad way back then that he did not have better friends than me.

I gave him my address and he wrote to me at least twice. I don’t remember if I wrote back.

He wrote his letters with pencil on the kind of lined notebook paper we used in high school. He spelled more than a few words wrong, so it surprised me when he reported that he had been accepted to Nuclear Power School in the Navy. I understood generally then what Wikipedia tells me specifically today, “Prospective enlisted enrollees in the Nuclear Power Program must have a qualifying score on the ASVAB exam, may need to pass a general science exam, and must undergo a NACLC investigation for attaining a “Secret” security clearance.” He introduced me to how some people are good at engineering and not spelling. I was open to the concept because I am good at spelling and not engineering.

I would like to believe that I replied to his letters and that our correspondence ended because he stopped writing to me, but going through the motions of replying to letters falls short of being a real friend. And now, 42 years later, I am sorry that I was not a real friend.

Jesus said that the most important thing was to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind” and to “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” The Everyday Bible: New Century Version (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2005), Matthew 22:37–39.

When I was 17 years old, I thought going to church, tithing, and not having sex outside of marriage made me a follower of Jesus. Now, at 59 years old, I think being a follower of Jesus means being genuinely interested in people with no better friends than me.