Friend – the real meaning of the word

David knew most of  his classmates in school, but none of them lived nearby so he really didn’t have a best friend. One day, as he stepped down from the school bus, he noticed a moving van across the street.  He ran inside all excited.

 

“Mom!” he shouted. “Who’s moving in?”

 

“I don’t know dear,” his mother replied. “I haven’t seen anyone yet.”

 

David sat by the window until it was dark but saw no one.

 

“No children,” he sighed to himself and went to bed.

 

The next day, the science teacher assigned projects to students.  “You will have to work in pairs,” she said.  David looked around the room. Everyone was choosing partners, but no one was looking at him. He leaned his head on his hand and looked down at the floor.

“I wish I had a best friend,” he mumbled.

 

Suddenly the door to the class opened and a young boy walked in, accompanied by the school secretary. The teacher and secretary talked for several minutes and the new boy just stared at his shoes. Then he looked up and saw David. Slowly, each boy smiled. The secretary left and the teacher brought the new boy over to David.

 

“I see you don’t have a partner yet for your project. I’d like you to meet Larry. He’ll be your partner. Larry is deaf.”

 

“Deaf?”

 

David looked at Larry and then at the teacher.

 

“How are we going to do the project if he can’t hear me?” he asked.

 

“Larry can read your lips David, if you speak slowly and form your words well. He also knows sign language. Perhaps he will teach you how to communicate with him,” she smiled.

 

Larry was watching the teacher speak. He smiled in agreement. “I will teach you sign,” Larry said slowly.  David was surprised. He had no idea that someone who couldn’t hear could speak.

 

“Well,” his teacher said, “I’ll leave you two alone.  Pick up your box before you leave. Remember the project is due next Monday.”

 

Larry and David sat together on the bus home.  They didn’t say a word.  Once inside his house, he looked for his mother.

“Mom,” he blurted out, “Mom you’ve got to help me!”

 

“Why? What’s wrong?” She asked, eyeing a big box of dirt in his arms.

 

“It’s Larry, the new boy across the street. We have to do a science project together.”

 

“So? What’s wrong with that?”

 

“He’s deaf,” he said impatiently “I won’t be able to explain what we have to do. Mom, I’m going to fail,” he wailed.

 

“Calm down. First, let’s go see if we can work something out.”

 

David’s mother put some freshly baked cookies in a plastic bag for her new neighbors. Then they went across the street. Larry’s mother invited them in, leading them into the kitchen. Larry was covering his books. After introductions were over, both mothers went into the other room, leaving the boys alone.

 

“Hi,” David said, looking straight ahead.

 

“Hi,” Larry answered.

 

David asked him a question, but Larry looked puzzled.  Larry started signing but David didn’t have a clue about what he was saying.

 

“He’s asking about the science project,” Larry’s mother interpreted, standing in the doorway.

 

“Oh,” David said.

 

“If you both take it slow, I’m sure you can complete the project and in plenty of time,” she said, smiling. “Try a word at a time and see what happens.”

 

Larry made a fist and flexed it up and down at the wrist.  “That means yes,” Larry said. Then he made another sign.  “That means friend.”

 

David smiled. He ran back to his house to get the big box of dirt. Both boys went down to Larry’s garden. They transplanted a red flower from the garden into their box of dirt. They took turns taking care of the flower every afternoon and on Monday, they brought it into class.

 

“Why that’s wonderful,” the teacher said, looking at the big red Gardenia. “It’s obvious that this flower was fertilized with lots of friendship.”

 

Larry and David looked at each other and smiled. Each of them had a new friend.

 

After class, the other students crowded around Larry and asked him to show them how to sign the word friend.

 

Copyright 1987

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