Ten years ago, I had a young man in my creative writing class named Tommy. He was a bit of a slacker…okay, he was a complete slacker. Clearly, he smoked too much weed.
Over the years, Tommy became friends with my oldest son, also a slacker and someone who, at the time, likewise smoked too much weed.
But John has since gotten his life together, and he and Tommy no longer crossed paths too often.
Anyway, one evening, just as I had settled into my recliner to watch Dateline or some such murder-porn, I got an unusual phone call on my cell.
It was an unfamiliar number, but local, and so I answered it. After all, two of my three sons were out of the house, so my mama-bear radar was up.
“Ms. Susan?” asked the somewhat familiar voice. “This is Tommy Oldham. Listen, my father and I are having an argument, and we need a woman to settle it. I’m not talking to my mother right now, so I figured I’d call you.”
Note to self: Put Tommy Oldham’s contact info into my phone.
“Anyway, so this is the question: What is better–a girl who gives you everything or a girl who gives you nothing?”
Now this was a knotty question. Clearly, this young man was seeking some kind of life-altering wisdom. Without his own mother (who I knew had thrown him out of her house years ago) he was seeking knowledge on affairs of the heart.
I knew I had to choose my words carefully. But Dateline was pulling me back to the recliner…I needed an answer, so I could get back to relaxing.
What to say? What to do? Was I even qualified to answer this question?
And then I thought back on my own hard-won experience and wisdom. Things I learned by being really young and stupid myself.
“Well, Tommy, it seems we always want the ones who treat us the worst. The ones who take us for granted and don’t make time for us. The ones who think they can do better and just keep us around to amuse themselves when there’s nothing better going on.
“We don’t appreciate the people who truly give of themselves and want to share in our lives and experiences. Those are the people we treat poorly and take for granted.“
There was dead silence on the other end of the line. And then, “Wow,” followed by hushed awe as if Tommy had just discovered an entire universe living on his thumb. “That is so deep and so right. Thanks, Ms. Susan.”
I got off the phone and settled back into my recliner with Dateline. And then I realized how much my advice to Tommy rings true in many areas of our lives–not just romantic.
Parenting. Work. Family. Friends. Church.
Our attention often goes to those who treat us the worst, while the ones who love us without qualification are the ones who get taken for granted.
I just blew my own mind.
And so, every time I think of Tommy’s phone call out of the blue, I smile. It reminds me of the number of young adults I had the privilege of mothering over the years as a high school English and creative writing teacher.
And so as we are on the cusp of a new school year, I am wishing you and yours well–hoping your children have teachers who they can count on for a pencil, a kind word, an understanding heart, or just a piece of motherly advice.
Susan J. Anderson
Foxy Writer Chick