I have come to realize that I collect people. Not in some freaky way, by putting them in a display case for my own amusement. Rather, this collection finds their way into my life: The friendless, misunderstood, lonely, drunk, up-standing, freaks, social outcasts, sinners, and saints. I have always had an odd asortment of friends.
This was most recently illustrated during the beginning of a new semester. In one particular class, there was one individual who seemed to be generally disliked by the majority of the class. I tried talking with my classmates one day explaining that this is my third class with the individual in question. I tried to explain that while most of what comes out of his mouth is phrased in such a way as to make the hairs on the back of your next stand on end, when you really listen to the essence of his statements--underneath the word choice, he isn't so far off. The looks I recieved told me they were not convinced.
The next class was worse. People seemingly ganged up on the poor guy. As I said he and I have had two prior classes together and have reached an understanding. So while I may challenge what he is saying, he knows it is not personal but more philosophical in nature. The third class rolled around, again having attempted to have my classmates look more at the content rather than the vocabulary...however, this class the individual moved to sit closer to me. I have found the more I talk to him one on one outside of class the better he is able to clearly direct his discussion points in class. While this has not eased tensions, it has made a difference in the class dynamics.
I was explaining this situation to a friend who is also in the course and is familiar with my struggles with this individual. I admitted that this is not the first person I have taken "under my wing" unethusiastically, but have made a lasting friendship with. She said, "Its because you are always looking for the light in a person. You always find their good qualities and bring them out."
I was a bit taken aback. She isn't a quaker, yet her observation was put in quaker terms. It made me think...that perhaps this is part of me. The caretaker, I see the darkened soul and want to make it shine again. And I guess its true because some of my "menagerie" is broken and that takes its toll on me. It is not that I have any illusions about this making me some kind of saint...I have no illusions of grandeaur when it come to myself.