Childhood is considered to be one of the happiest chapters in one’s life. Why? Because when you are a kid you are carefree, you don’t have the worries or problems like adults have. But of course not all childhoods are created equal. While there are some who come from a rich, happy family there will be others who experience hardship in life. Especially the ones who come from a poor family.
I myself came from a poor family. My father was the only breadwinner in our family. My half sister and half brother from my father lived with us. I had a colorful childhood with a lot of memories. Some are good and some are bad. I have no regrets about where I came from. Experiencing hardship helped me to become what I am today. It helped to mature me emotionally and mentally.
I remember my mom would describe to me the place where I was born. She told me that she gave birth to me in a very tiny house with walls and floors made of bamboo. This type of house is called a Nipa hut. The house had only one tiny room. It served as their living room, dining room and bedroom. The floor was 12 inches high from the ground so every time there was a big rainstorm the house got flooded. This was all they could afford with my father’s salary.
When I turned one year old my father got a new job with another company. So from Binan we moved to another town in the province of Laguna called San Pedro. This time my parent’s house was bigger. Moving to San Pedro was the best decision that my parents made. It was a big blessing to our family. Little did I know that later on I would meet a person that would play a very special part in my life.
I will never forget how we first met. It was the night before the funeral of her dad. I was 5 years old at that time. Her dad had been one of the owners of the bus company where my father was employed. My parents and all the employees had come to pay their respects at the Viewing. I was sitting on a swing in a play area outside the house. A 4 year old girl with pigtails came to me and said, “Hoy bata! Bakit ang itim mo?” (Hey kid! Why are you dark?). I felt insulted by her question but I didn’t let her know because I was really dark when I was kid. I was always out in the sun so I looked toasted or overcooked. I responded to her, “Hindi ko alam!” (I don’t know!). After that she started playing with me.
That night a unique friendship was started. I say “unique” because our status in life was very different. She was born rich and I was born poor. She was a princess and I was a pauper.
My family lived in an employee compound owned by her family. So we always got to see each other. Every weekend she would invite me to her house to play.
When I was in the 5th grade my father had an affair with another woman. My mother and I left the house and we lived in a warehouse. As soon as we left the house my father’s mistress moved in. My friend found out that we left the house. She came up with a plan to drive away my father’s mistress from the house. She called all the kids who lived in the compound and ordered them to trash up the place and make a loud noise. One of the kids found some newborn mice, they were hairless and pinkish in color and their eyes were not yet open. My father’s mistress was sleeping on a couch by an open window. When my friend saw this she tossed the baby mice on the sleeping woman. The mice started crawling on her and that really woke her up. She was so angry and started yelling at us. My friend answered her back saying, “Do you know who I am? My grandmother owns this place. We own this place, you don’t have the right to speak to me that way. I’m going to tell my grandmother to kick you out of this house. And sure enough that’s what she did. Later that day her grandmother sent a guard who ordered the woman to leave the house.
Growing up together I was blessed to have her as my friend. Because of her I experienced so many things. She opened her world to me. She lent her toys to me, invited me to dine in with her and her family, invited me to ride in her family’s fancy cars and she even introduced me to her rich friends, cousins, and classmates and I wasn’t made to feel out of place. Out of her generosity and kindness she gave me nice clothes and shoes. I did sleepovers at her house. We were inseparable. (Oh how I miss those days). But of course like any other friendship we experienced rough times too! Like one time she became jealous over a new kid I met who was also a daughter of one of her family’s workers. She didn’t speak to me for a week.
To mention more, from her I learned to eat raw vegetable salad. This was an exotic food for me. I was exposed to other American food. And I learned to speak English confidently because her family often conversed in English. Also, reading her collection of Archie comic books helped a lot! Knowing English so well really helped me years later when I came to America.
Over the years our friendship grew strong. In spite of our difference in life she never made me feel that I was beneath her. She always treated me like we were equal. To this day we still keep in touch with each other although we are separated by thousands of miles. She still lives in the Philippines and now I live in America. We still chat with and email each other, sharing the new happenings in our lives.
Our friendship reminds me of the story of David and Jonathan’s friendship in the Bible. Jonathan was a prince while David was a shepherd. And at that time Jonathan’s father Saul, who was king, didn’t like David.
1 Samuel 18:1 (ESV): As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.
What a remarkable friendship. David and Jonathan could have been enemies and rivals but they chose to be friends. In fact, more than that, they treated each other like brothers.
Proverbs 18:24 (ESV):A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
A true friendship that stands the test of trials and time is rare. Friends may come and go, but to have a lifelong, close, personal friendship is truly a great blessing from God.
This kind of friendship is rare today. You won’t hear something like this every day. But you can achieve this kind of friendship with God and Christ. In John 15:13-15 Jesus says:
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.(ESV)
Wouldn’t you like to have Jesus for a friend?