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Best friend

I don’t like saying “best friend.” I have too many people in my life who I couldn’t put in second place. I consider them all tied for first.

That being said, my longest friendship – and the first person I considered to be my “best friend” – was just recently in Russellville visiting. Jason and I have known each other since the second grade.

First day of school that year found us in the same cluster of desks. There was a blonde-haired girl I had my eyes on, and my plan was to get her attention by intentionally spilling my pencil box.

I dumped my pencils, erasers and crayons in the floor and said, “Will somebody help me pick these up?” She did not take the bait, but my buddy did. By recess, we were riding his Ninja Turtles van down the slide.

I remember going to his house to stay the night the first time. At bedtime I laid in a sleeping bag in the floor and said, “Jason, you’re my best friend.” He said, “You’re my best friend, too.”

After that we were inseparable. His parents picked me up for school. I went to church with his family. My dad took us to movies, museums and buffets. We took the same classes together, and when it came time to get after-school jobs, we both became telemarketers.

Sadly, when I moved to Alabama in 2000, we lost touch with each other for almost 10 years.

God knows who we need in life and when we need them. By 2013 I was struggling to find sobriety, and God knew I needed my friend again. He popped up on Facebook, and I learned he had also faced addiction but was on the other side of his battle. Soon we were on the phone together, and by the end of our first conversation, we planned on him visiting.

Jason came at Thanksgiving that year. I couldn’t believe how good he was doing. He was level-headed and put together. His perspective on life was beautiful and clear.

I spent the weeks after he left thinking, “If Jason got his act together, I know I can get mine together.” He was an inspiration.

By January, I was on track again.

One of the most amazing things about God’s plans for our lives is how layered they can be. On the surface level, our friendship had meant I had someone to watch wrestling and talk about Pearl Jam with. On the divine level, it meant that when I was lost in the dark, I could follow someone I trusted into the light.

Our friendship has continued since then. Thanks to the wonders of technology, we talk and message each other almost every day. I’ve taken my family to Nebraska to visit his. He’s been to Alabama several times, including last week.

We got to be kids again. We played too much Nintendo, ate too much at the buffet and laughed at stuff we shouldn’t. He spoiled my wife and son and even my dog.

It was more than a good visit. It was the best.

Stults is a performing songwriter from Russellville.