05 February 2013

No visit home is complete without seeing Brenda, Debbie and Torie, three friends  I’ve known since childhood. I met two of them when we were all in second grade and the third when I was in seventh grade. The four of us have been friends ever since.

Our lives took divergent paths— I left North Carolina to attend college and then moved to New York and Los Angeles to lead my wacky life as a journalist, while they stayed close to home, pursued their careers locally, got married and raised great kids. Three of us share the same political views, the other is more conservative.

But when we get together, any differences fall away and the focus is on what binds us rather than what divides us. We have a lifetime of stories to fall back on and we have our own shorthand: with a few words we can dissolve into laughing fits. Generally, if one of us starts to cry, the others start crying sympathetically within seconds. It's like we're hardwired together.

Here’s one thing I know for sure: I could call any of them at any point and if I needed them, they would be on the next plane and I would do the same. When my mom died, other than the ministers, Debbie was the only non-family member to speak. And I’m defining non-family here solely as not blood related. By any other definition, all three of them are my family. 

I didn’t get to see Torie this trip, but Brenda, Debbie and I had dinner and a game night. With my father in declining health, I usually already have my next trip home planned before I leave again and Debbie always takes out the Hallmark-like purse calendar she has carried for decades and writes it down. It makes me incredibly happy when she does that.

For the last dozen years or so, we’ve gone away for a weekend in the summer, usually to the beach, but we’ve recently expanded our repertoire to include the mountains. I was the only one of us who hadn’t gone to the Outer Banks, so this summer that’s where we went. This year, someone else will get to decide.

I could write volumes on how much they mean to me, but it comes down to I love them and they love me.

So today for Chooseday Tuesday, I pick a charity Debbie suggested, NC Baptist Men/Baptists on Mission. NCBM, based in Cary,runs 14 different ministries throughout the world, ranging from an aviation ministry that provides charitable medical air transportation to running a camp for boys who have a parent in prison to disaster relief. The latter is particularly impressive: they provide everything from food to sanitation to bringing in laundry machines. During Hurricane Ike in 2008, they fed more than 50,000 daily from three make-shift kitchens. Despite growing up here, I'd never heard of them and the wonderful work they do. 

Feb. 5: NC Baptist Men/Baptists on Mission:

36 down, 329 to go!

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