The power of friends

Once upon a time that seems like a lifetime ago, in a land we call Chili, I played normal games that most other kids did with my brother. We lived on Chili Avenue, and there no other kids our age. Occasionally the grandchildren of Mr. Rycraft across the street came for a visit, and so did the grandchildren of the Stevens’ kitty corner from us. Lucky for me I enjoyed the out of doors and our property backed up to Black Creek. My mom had a huge victory garden, and I was often involved with that. I loved the creek though. It was my very own playground, and just by observing the water movement, the wildlife that would get amazingly close to you if you sat still and the farmland across the creek I self educated myself on the outdoors. Until I was 15, I was going to be a DEC officer.

Now only having your brother to play with gets kinda old after awhile. The Stevens’ grandkids were three boys from Korea. They had traditional Korean names, but had also chosen American names. When they came to visit, we often broke our monotony of playing in the creek, or practicing baseball in the front yard to do stuff with them (they had a pool which was a most welcome break in the hot summer months). In the meantime, I got to know about a new culture which I was very interested in. The kids across the street lived in Guelph, Ontario Canada. Again, three boys that said “eh” a LOT! Another culture, and more lessons about the world that surrounded the little hamlet of West Chili.

Right around 6th grade, a kid moved into the other house kitty corner from us. He was my age exactly, and very nice. His accent was thick from the island of Jamaica. He parents had split and he was sent here to live with one of them. He was my first friend that was black. We learned a lot from each other over the years. He spoke differently, but very well mannered and extremely nice. He had a different religion, and on the night of the Sabbath he had to be in the house by nightfall and we never saw hin on a Sunday. He ate things I could not comprehend living in the modernized western world. We traded stories and made many more. High school came and went. I remember him vividly being an excellent artist, and his ability to run like the wind. he floated with this gentle, yet powerful stride. We built a fort, excavated some Seneca Indian artifacts from the area and explored what we could get away with. Both of our parents were very strict, but we managed.

During high school, he had told me numerous times he was going to be a brain surgeon. At that time, it didn’t seem to far fetched for me to think he could do. Flash forward to the year 1999 and I was completing clinical time in the old ED of Strong Memorial. Vividly, like it was yesterday, I passed a black guy wearing a lab coat. I stopped in my tracks, turned around as he continued to walk. “Garth?!” I said loudly. he stopped and turned around in the middle of the open hallway, “My name is Lloyd” he said. Glancing at his name tag, I said, “yeah – Garth Lloyd Brown”. he looked befuddled for a moment. I said I had put on a little weight than the last time we saw each other. “It’s John, John Spaulding”. Well that was it, our unusual conversation of two guys wearing lab coats making a scene and embracing each other was something to behold. Apparently for a few minutes we were quite entertaining. This kid I grew up with that barely kept his books with him, notes and homework always kind hanging out of a folder or book was pressed, neat and clean.

My friend had done is pre-med and medical doctor education right there at the university if Rochester. We exchanged numbers and kept in touch for a short while. Fast forward to this week, and while writing a blog about the snow coming and remembering Lloyd’s first reaction to seeing snow  for the very first time made me look him up on the the old inter-web.

Lloyd is now a transplant surgeon specializing in liver and kidneys. Not only that, he’s an assistant professor at Rutgers. He also conducts research on liver and related organs. He also decided that the MD and ensuing fellowship wasn’t enough; he’s now pursuing his MBA.

Who would have thought that a kid who grew up in poverty like conditions and was shipped to a foreign country could go so far. I am so proud to call him my friend and what he has chosen to do with his life.

I came to realize that as the world has changed so dramatically in the last couple years in regards to color and creed, I had the luxury of being introduced to the cultures of three completely different races before I was 12 years old. Like every company or organization has bad apples in the basket, so does each color, creed, race, and religion. You should encourage everyone not to forget that. We will never eliminate them or their poor choices and actions from society, but we can be the better and discourage it. 

As my friend Tony says whenever we see each other and we part ways, “peace and love my brother”.