Do you have friends like that? Friends it is not easy to be friends with? Some of my cognitively disabled friends are like that (I have a greater tendency to not work on relationships with nondisabled people if they are hard to be friends with for some reason). Sometimes helping my friends with mental retardation, being friends with them is "messy." They have problems that I can't solve, and they impolitely do not keep their problems to themselves. They tell me their problems, make demands on me, and expect me to help them or solve their problems. Even keeping in contact with them is difficult because they don't follow the social etiquette I am used to. They will call me at 11:30 at night or 6:30 in the morning. They will call me 7 times a day or everyday of the week. My response has been to tell them "Please don't call me after 10 or before 7 unless it is an emergency. I will also tell them, "Please just call me once a week just to talk." I have gotten to the point that I will tell them, "You have already called me once this week. Unless this is an emergency, I will talk to you later." I may even have to hang up after ensuring there isn't an emergency. It might seem unkind, and perhaps it is, but it is what I have come to. But I like the fact that others in my church are facing the same challenges in their friendships with the people with cognitive disabilities who attend our church. These individuals are now on their radar screen. They are also someone else who can be called once a week just to talk for a few minutes.
Some of the messiness of the friendship comes from the social skill differences of my friends with cognitive disabilities. Some of the messiness comes from differences in my friends' life experiences that I may not be not used to. My friends with disabilities have to deal with...
-Access (busses they reserve to take them places), and
-conservators (who may or may not be very interested in them, but
nontheless have control over their lives),
-unscrupulous people who sell them things (cell phones can be the biggest
-being alone except for people who are paid to be with them
-dealing with human services and human service rules (in other words, the
-a lack of friends
-too much time and too few things to do
-and so on
In attempting to be a friend to some people, I find myself in the position of negotiating, or being in the middle, or whatever. They are not friends who I can call to come over, or meet for a ball game, who then go home and solve their own problems. They can be high maintenance.
The whole social skills thing is another aspect of the difficulty of some friendships. Some of my friends I am sure impact the potential of friendships with others. People I love have told me that friends of mine are "wierd." Those who are not afraid to be politically incorrect and tell me what they really think will sometimes say that, which makes me think that others with whom I am not as close probably think that as well, but just don't say it to me.
So as Christians, what do we do about this? Are we called to befriend those who are more difficult to befriend than the average person? Are friendships about us only? Do we befriend others to benefit them? Is friendship something that is easy? I must admit that I have at times asked myself Doc Holiday's question. I have wondered if I believe in friendship, or just friendship that is easy for me.