Everyone has a best friend in High School. It's as compulsory as taking maths. Well, my best friend was Alicia Waterford. We did the usual
best-friend things: sat around talking about boys, learning to blow smoke-rings, visiting each other's houses.
I loved visiting Alica. Alicia was the eldest of ten children. You would think that would make her house rather hectic. Well, it was. But it was such
a nice hectic. I only had the one sister, so seeing so many siblings in the one house was like a new and different world.
The best thing about the Waterford family was you could almost see the love in that house. You could certainly sense it. Until then, I thought
families that really cared for each other only existed in American sitcoms. Here was the proof that they actually existed.
But their obvious love for each other didn't mean they didn't have time for strangers. On the contrary. I felt more welcome in that home than I had
in any other house (including my Mum and Dad's). This was over ten years ago and even now I think back to that home with a touch of nostalgia.
They didn't have big hi-fi systems. The place didn't look like it belonged in a home designer magazine. But it was special. If I had the choice of
having love or spotless matching linen in my house, I know which one I'd choose.
And then there was Mrs Waterford (Alicia's mum). Before I go any further, I should mention that the Waterfords were strict Catholics. (You may
have guessed that around the time I said "ten children"). So when I met Mrs Waterford I expected a preachy judgmental woman who considered
me a bad influence on her daughter. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the exact opposite applied. Mrs Waterford welcomed me into her
home as if I were her own daughter. She was not only beautiful on the outside, but inside where it really counted.
After I had known Alicia for a while, Alicia suggested I accompany her to Antioch (her youth church group). I readily agreed, partly because it
sounded like fun, partly because there were boys involved, but mostly because I had an earnest desire to improve my relationship with God. Mrs
Waterford was a living example of why I should do so. Speeches, flyers and door-knocks don't hold nearly as much power as knowing a
Christian you greatly admire.
So I went along, but unfortunately good intentions aren't always enough. Soon Alicia and I grew into the habit of missing mass completely and
only turning up for the social event afterwards. Predictably enough, someone said something.
As far as they were concerned, I was corrupting a good Catholic girl. I was a bad influence. They never actually said any of this to me. They said
it all to Mrs Waterford. I imagine they sounded somewhat like that imaginary person I thought Mrs Waterford would be before I actually met her.
Anyway, I can't say for certain how the conversation went but I do know how it ended. I was banned from Antioch.
I wouldn't have blamed Mrs Waterford if she'd chosen that moment to turn on me. I had kept her daughter from church. I had even introduced her
to smoking. I wouldn't have blamed her if she agreed with everything the church leaders said, gave me a lecture and insisted on no uncertain
terms that I was never to speak to Alicia again. Did I mention strict catholic?
I wouldn't have blamed her, but it didn't happen like that. Mrs Waterford stood up for me. As I said, I wasn't there, but I know the gist of the
conversation. She said they shouldn't ban me, I know that. She also mentioned something about turning away someone who may finally be
turning towards God. Words to that effect, anyway. She sided with a sinner.
How did Mary Magdelene feel when Jesus sided with her? I don't know. I can't imagine it. But I do know how it feels when someone good is on
your side, even though you're someone bad. It's amazing.
I'd like to say the church leaders changed their mind. They didn't. I never went to Antioch again. I still remained friends with Alicia, but eventually,
as many high-school friendships do, we lost contact. I never see Alicia anymore. I never see Mrs Waterford. I never see anyone from that
wonderful Waterford family. But I think of them every day.
Mrs Waterford, if you ever see this, I'd like to tell you something. I'd like to thank you for being such a wonderful person. I'd like to thank you for
remaining on my side. But most of all, I'd like to thank you for showing me what true Christians are like. You are my hero.
[ by Liz Palmer, copyright © 2003 (firstname.lastname@example.org) -- from '2TheHeart' ]
All Rights Reserved.