My friend Michelle and I are a lot alike on the inside. We think similar thoughts about life, have similar ideas about child-rearing and homeschooling. On the outside, we couldn't be more different, considering that she is willow-slim and swishy-haired and I'm not. But that might be a good thing, because if both of us looked like her, people would fall down before us, blinded by the sheer, atom-splitting force of our mutual beauty.
Michelle is one of the nicest and most genuine people I have ever known, one of those ones where the click between the two of you is almost audible. She's one of those people that feel like I can be myself with and she won't be shocked and disapproving if I mention that sometimes I want to lock myself in the bathroom to get away from my kids. She is the kind of friend who will listen to me talk about a problem I'm having and have something smart and real to say, not just laying a hand on my arm and saying (the bane of all Christians everywhere), "I'll pray for you."
For instance, last school year, when I needed to find a venue to house the Shakespeare Workshop I was going to be teaching to middle school and high school aged students in our homeschool group, I was kind of worried. I needed a place that was relatively easy for all the driving mothers on the four sides of Indianapolis to get to. I needed a place that was big enough to comfortably accommodate around twenty students. I needed a place with a good-sized television and a DVD player. Above all, I needed a place that was free. I considered and rejected a couple of places, but then Michelle stepped up and said, "Do you want to hold the class in our playroom?"
I gratefully jumped at the chance and it was perfect. Her oldest daughter, who is Aisling's age, even served willingly as my tech staff, inserting DVDs into the proper slots and manipulating a number of remotes with great skill.
Michelle also knows how to throw one heck of a party. Last year, she organized an Epiphany party for the homeschool group, complete with three joke-cracking "wise men," our youth choir, and an adult spelling bee. It was a huge success, but Michelle just smiled as people thanked her and said, "Thank you for coming!" Most of them, including me, probably didn't know the huge amount of work she put in, pulling together a real extravaganza in just a few short weeks, including, I have heard, renting a piano so that the choir director could accompanying our singing children. Now, see, I would have just saved the money and asked the choir director if she'd mind picking out the tunes on the Little Tykes xylophone-style keyboard we have stuffed in a closet somewhere, and then I would have forgotten to bring it with me on the night of the party, but that's not the way Michelle does things.
Her current project is gathering information and statistics on the poor state of catechesis in our Catholic youth. It probably isn't a surprise to any Catholic reading here that the last forty years have been an abysmal time in the United States, as far as learning and then knowing the Catholic faith are concerned. And even more, there's that pressing issue of not only knowing it with one's head, but actually practicing it in one's life. She has a shining determination that the kids in our parish won't grow up as pitifully untaught as a forty-something person that my husband encountered in a Lenten Bible study in a former parish who said scornfully, "Purgatory? Oh, that's something my grandma believes in. I'm glad we Catholics are past that kind of superstitious stuff now."
When it was pointed out to him that belief in Purgatory is supported in the Bible and is not just some arcane belief that was dreamed up by the apostles, he merely raised an eyebrow and said, "And...?" I'll tell you, it takes a very special lack of learning to be able to diss the Bible while taking part in a Bible study.
If Michelle has her way, that won't happen to her kids or my kids or any of the other kids in our church. And because she is such an incredible friend, I'll not only pray for her in her endeavor, but also lend a hand to help her. That's what real friends do, which is something I learned from my friend Michelle.
Happy birthday, girlfriend. ILYLAS!
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