Back in the Fall of 2012, I was a hapless young freelancer with one foot in politics and one foot in journalism and absolutely zero grounding in reality.
That was the autumn I discovered frienship – or rather, it discovered me.
I had just finished my associates degree in Paralegal Studies at community college and my long held belief that I could take on the world single-handedly was beginning to shake.
At the time, I was working for John Wanio, a real mover and shaker in the world of political campaigns. My time with him was quite the education.
On our team of half a dozen or so of post-grads and early career-age rookies, I was at the bottom rung. Aside from charting slate submissions and coordinating communication on budgeting and material design, I also picked up lunches and dropped off checks. I spent two hours trying to buy printing paper one afternoon because, despite the shop being just down the road, I ended up horribly and unalterably lost for the better part of 90 minutes.
But it was an exciting time to be young and alive. I don’t remember what the temperatures actually were, but in my mind it was brisk and cool. The leaves near our office did wilt and turn yellow and brown and I found – for the first time in my adult life – that I could actually afford to buy pumpkin spice lattes from Starbucks. Ah, the joys of a steady paycheck.
It was a much different world than the life of a student journalist I had been living for the previous two years – though the around-the-clock feel of the job hadn’t changed.
Working in campaign politics is like riding an off-kilter merry-go-round. You can almost see the electrical sparks flying as the broken music track skips several beats at at time, you and your plastic horse flying through the air at break-neck speed. No one actually passes anyone else and, in the end, it seems like you’re all just going around in circles anyway.
That didn’t stop us from riding, of course, and I was given the bucking bronco of our little wheel.
One evening, as I was about to close up and head home, my supervisor came over to my desk with several boxes. He placed them in front of me and said, “We have to get these distributed by tomorrow night and our volunteers can’t make it up here to walk the neighborhoods.”
That’s a problem, I nodded. What a shame.
“You’re going to have to do it.”
My jaw dropped. There were several hundred pamphlets in here. How was I going to make drops at hundreds of homes before tomorrow night?
“Better get cracking,” my supervisor said with a laugh – the kind of laugh you only hear from people who’ve been in your shoes and relish the opportunity to give you the same education they recieved.
OK. Fine. Here goes nothing.
I spent three hours that night dropping flyers off on doorsteps in the neighborhoods we had charted out on a set of print-out maps.
Then, discouraged and barely a third of the way through the boxes, I called it quits and headed home.
I spent every free minute of the following day reaching out to friends from church and high school – anyone still in town. Would they be interested in helping me drop these flyers? I could pay them with pizza and we could hang out afterwards. It would be a good time, I promised.
Everyone was busy.
Finally, in desperation, I texted from acquaintances from the student newsroom I had labored in for two years. These guys were “friends” at school, but we didn’t hang out much off campus. And this was hardly an enticing invitation.
To my surprise and relief, the ring leader of the group said, “Of course! When do you want us there?”
He roped in three other people, so that when they all showed up at the rendezvous, I had a veritable army at my disposal. What had taken me three hours alone took our group about 45 minutes.
I don’t know if they dropped other commitments to come help me with mine – they never said. It was a gesture of friendship offered without cost.
Over the months that followed, those friends saw me through a lot – and yes, after that night, I did truly consider them friends. I was not used to having people prioritizing a shared bond and therefore always being ready to extend a helping hand. My friendships prior to that had been circumstantial, based on geography or background or community.
These new friends came from wildly different upbringings. We shared little in political, religious or social ideology. In fact, the only things we had in common at that point were some laughs.
Now, the better part of a decade later, one of those friends – the ring leader – has photographed my sister’s wedding, met me in half a dozen cities around the globe for spontaneous adventure and continues to reach out with words of kindness and deeds of friendship.
I will never cease to be amazed at how humans can impact each other, and I will always be grateful that this one found me.