My 7-year-old son, Jeremiah, has been sucking his thumb since birth. When he began developing teeth, a callous started forming on his thumb in the area where teeth hit skin. About that same time I began developing a very platonic friendship with a man I met at church.
It was slow at first, a brief hello here, a wave goodbye there. I’d see him on Sundays and he’d ask how my week was to which I would recap for him the happenings at work, my car trouble, and the “new” thing I was doing to curb my then 2-year-old’s thumb sucking habit. He started sitting with me occasionally during service, or I with him, I’m not sure which. One day he suggested lunch after church, to which I reluctantly obliged.
“You know I got the kids with me,” I said. The thumb sucker and the other one.
“It’s fine. Bring them,” he answered. So I did.
The months turned into years and we learned each other, our life stories, sour love affairs, brushes with the law, encounters with God. Once he bought me a gift for Christmas, which I promptly returned. I can’t take this. I’m seeing someone. I dated a lot and I told him. Mostly corporate types, tailored suits, polished shoes, a stark contrast to who he was. Another time I went away on business and came back a week later heartbroken and torn. He was there with kind words.
Friday nights when I had no other plans, he’d come by with food and a movie. When my car broke down, he was there to give me a ride. When I was running late, he’d get my children from school. When I was simply lonely, I’d call him and we’d talk. So I asked him one day,
“How come you’re so nice to me?”