It's weird to think about how one moment which seems very ordinary at the time can end up having a dramatic effect on the rest of your life. It's an unfortunate truth that, when a kid visits a Sunday School class, it often proves inconsequential. Maybe they're just visiting their cousin that weekend and come to church with them before they go back home, or maybe they'll come for a few Sundays before they fall off the map. There was no reason for me to expect anything different when three brothers visited my Sunday School class in 4th grade. Just a typical Sunday. In an effort to make the visitors feel welcome, the teacher asked them a few questions about themselves, such as "What's your favorite TV show?" All three answered, "Rugrats," and the oldest one added that his favorite character was Chucky.
The three brothers continued coming to my church, and it happened that the oldest one was in the same grade as me. Before long it was time to "promote" up to the 5th and 6th grade class. I have a weird memory sometimes. For whatever reason, there are random spots of my life that I remember very vividly. That promotion service was one such time. As my fellow 4th graders and I waited in the pew (in the section next to the center aisle, on the right side when you're looking at the stage), I remember thinking something like, "Hm, this Charlie kid seems like a cool guy. I should try to be better friends with him."
Charlie and I probably became friends the way everyone knows us as in middle school. Looking back, it was actually a pretty odd pairing. We didn't go to the same school. Charlie would be the first to tell you that his middle school days were his greatest. He played on all his school's sports teams, and did pretty well, too. I went to math competitions. He was dating girls before I had ever had a conversation with one. People reportedly said he looked like Brad Pitt. People told me I looked like Harry Potter.
And now, 13 years after his visit to Sunday School, I've been watching that guy who was so fond of Rugrats as he packs up his University of Kansas trinkets before moving out of our dorm room for the last time. It's a weird feeling. People have been asking me, "What are you going to do next year with Charlie gone?" And I don't know, really. In a lot of ways, mine and Charlie's life experiences run very parallel with one another. I noticed this last summer when I was doing my internship, and a good number of the stories I told in conversations with people started with, "One time my roommate and I..." I guess that's what happens when you're rarely apart from someone for so long. Charlie and I have experienced a lot together, everything from fake pigtails to CIY towels to all-night Playstation marathons to sketchy areas of Louisville to Reds cheerleaders to Chick-fil-A camp-outs (followed by many Chick-fil-A dinners) to Mike Ditka.
Like I mentioned, Charlie and I were probably pretty different when we were younger, but we've probably become more and more like each other as time has gone on. He basically taught me how to play basketball. Everything I know about women, I learned from him. (Oddly enough, we're both still single. Hm.) The way I speak is largely due to how Charlie speaks. (We could probably make a dictionary of all of the words and phrases we've coined over the years.) The things I think are funny are often the same things he thinks are funny. (Which is why, from time to time, we may accidentally bust out laughing during tense moments of serious movies.)
In a couple weeks, Charlie will be driving his Pontiac (which has nearly be the scene of my death on multiple occasions) to Indiana so that he can begin a year-long youth ministry internship with a church there. I, meanwhile, will remain in school because growing up and being an adult stress me out way more than taking tests and writing exegeticals. Charlie would readily admit that he doesn't feel ready to do a lot of the work he's getting ready to do, but I would disagree. Charlie has a heart for students and shows concern for them in a way that I admire. He hates to see kids that are alone or left out. I guess that would explain why he chose to be my friend all those years ago. And sure, he may not know how to file taxes, and he may hate having to do his own laundry, but he's going to be an great, godly youth minister that will help students discover Jesus.
Before Charlie and I came to Ozark, I would hear some people say that it can be dangerous for best friends to be roommates. For us, this was never much of a problem, as evidenced by our Bert and Ernie Award from the dorm last year. In fact, Charlie and I very, very rarely get in much of an argument at all. I think I can tend to annoy him at times, but it all blows over pretty quickly. We get along well because we understand each other well. Possibly more than anyone else, Charlie just knows how to deal with me and what I need from a friend. For example, there was one time when there was a girl whose chili I dug, and one day before chapel another person, unaware of the situation, said something to Charlie and I about this girl liking some other guy. That's never good news. I remember a brief moment of silence before hearing Charlie whisper, "Well.....that sucks." Which was really all I needed. I'm not one to want to sit and talk about things when I don't like them. I'd rather brood about them in silence before I morph them into some blog post, and Charlie understood that.
I wrote a post last year about how our social spheres are a lot like a big van in which people move around between seats. They're constantly in flux. For the average person, his best friend in middle school isn't much more than a casual acquaintance by the time they're in high school. His best friend in high school only gets an occasional facebook message when they're in college. And his best friend from college is nearly forgotten by the time they're 35. I hope to be the exception to that. I understand that people come and go and relationships change. But I have little desire to have another best friend. I'm pretty happy with the one I've got.
And with all that said, I love you Chuck, and I know you're going to do great in Indiana. And as much as I don't get sentimental about things or, in your words, don't care about anything and need to get over myself, I am really going to miss you next year. Congratulations on finishing your college career by being better than me at every single game/activity/sport that we play, except for bowling, which you now refuse to play with me. If being apart for a summer required staying at IHOP until 2 a.m. to catch up when we were reunited, we'd better plan on being there for a couple days the next time we get together. Bring on the short stacks.
I think the only appropriate way to end this post is with a phrase that we all know and love, of which the depths of its meaning can only be understood by the wisest among us: