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People, Places, and the Things They Teach Us

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The places in which we learn things are often random and unexpected, but they hold some of life’s greatest lessons. The people we meet in those places make it that much greater. My mom has always taught me that I can learn something from every single person I meet. I didn’t really understand that notion until I left for college, but I have discovered that there is so much truth behind it.

I met my best friend, Regina, in the bathroom of my dorm. The girls all shared a bathroom on our floor so there was a lot of mingling going on at all hours of the day- or night. I don’t remember the actual moment we became friends, but it seems like we just met and that was it, we were stuck with each other.

Regina’s brother is in the army. Before I met her, the war our country is in never seemed real to me. It was just a distant thing people mentioned over fancy luncheons or dinner parties. It was never something that I paid any attention to or had any feelings about until I walked into Regina’s room one day and found her sobbing. Her brother had just received his letter stating that he was being deployed. That was the first time I was ever afraid for someone I had never met, a soldier about to leave home without knowing if he’ll ever come back.

I can’t say I went through it all with Regina because I didn’t. I didn’t know what she was feeling. I do know that, had my sister been in her brother’s shoes, I would have been petrified and unable to make it through the day without thinking something had happened to her. I had no idea what to tell Regina, what to say to make her feel better, so I just listened. I still don’t know if that did any good, but I think that just being there with her while she was afraid was all she needed- another lesson I learned from my mom.

Regina’s brother came home six days ago, safely. She and her family were there to meet him. He got in at three o’clock in the morning and Regina sent me a picture of the homecoming. I looked at the picture and felt tears well up in my eyes. For the first time I was proud for someone. I was so proud for Regina and her family, that they had a son and a brother with that much courage and belief in doing the right thing and making a difference. I was proud to have Regina as a friend, and so grateful to have her in my life.

Seeing the picture she sent me at three o’clock in the morning, and being connected to it in even the smallest of ways, filled me with a pride I have never felt before. I kept saying to myself, “Here are all of these men who have been at war and their families are finally right in front of them and they have the dedication to stand in perfect formation and complete their duty to this country.” If that had been me, I would have run off the airplane and into my parents’ arms within seconds. But not these guys. They had a job to do, and in my opinion, they did it very well.

Looking back at it all, the lesson I took away is to learn from people and appreciate what they teach you. Be there for your friends even if you can’t understand what they are going through. And pray for the moment when you learn what it’s like to be proud for the family of a soldier- be it a man who is fighting in Iraq, a sister facing her fears of losing her brother, or a woman battling breast cancer. What they do is not easy.