Christmas of a different kind

My alarm went off at 4AM. For the first time in my entire life, 38 years, I was awake at 4AM on Christmas morning. I was also completely alone for the first time, with the exception of my cat, Mr. Glitter Sparkles.

Typically Mr. Glitter Sparkles wakes me up demanding a morning treat, but this was too early for even him.

I groaned. It was Christmas morning, and I groaned. I rolled out of bed and headed to the bathroom to get ready for what would be a really long Christmas day. I threw on my Rescue Mission t-shirt, some jeans, and boots, did my hair and makeup, and headed out the door by 4:30.

Fort Wayne was a ghost town. It was dark and cold, but there wasn’t any snow. I needed Starbucks badly, but even on a regular day they wouldn’t be open this early, so I was definitely out of luck. I put on some Christmas music hoping to lift my mood, and even Andy Williams and his “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” didn’t do it.

I love my job. I love The Rescue Mission and what it does. I love that God uses us to help homeless people find and follow Jesus and change their lives for the better. But on Christmas morning, I just wasn’t feeling it. I wished I was sound asleep in Florida at my parents house like usual and not due to wake up for another four hours.

After dropping my things off in my office, I went to the lobby to greet the reporter who would be interviewing me live on their morning news show. I put on my happy face and greeted him with very convincing, “Merry Christmas!” He was genuinely filled with joy, which was slightly irritating at the time, but I didn’t let my disdain show.

“Well, I’ll do my teaser here in a few minutes. I won’t need you until around 5:40,” he said.

“Sounds great,” I replied. “I’m just going to go do some work in my office until then.”

Going back to my office meant trekking through the courtyard again, since my regular route would have been through the chapel, and the chapel was filled with sleeping homeless men. But I as I turned to head through the courtyard, I saw something I didn’t see when I came through before. I glanced down the hallway and saw homeless men sleeping on cots. As we often do, especially in the winter, we had run out of room in the chapel, and men were sleeping in the hallway.

IMG_5462Getting up at 4AM on Christmas morning suddenly didn’t seem so bad. Working on Christmas day suddenly felt like nothing. I stood and stared at the sleeping men in the dark hallway for awhile. Being homeless at Christmas. Sleeping on a cot in a hallway at Christmas. I grabbed my phone to capture what I saw, as I knew it would be a pivotal moment in the day for me.

As I walked outside into the courtyard, I began to cry. I felt super selfish for hating my Christmas morning. I woke up in my own house, in my own warm bed. I drove my own car to my job, which I love, that gives me a paycheck every two weeks. I had so much to be thankful for.

I pulled myself together by the time I went back up front for my live interviews.

“I’m here in downtown Fort Wayne at The Rescue Mission with their Director of Marketing & Donor Engagement, Natalie Trout,” the reporter said into the camera as he began the interview.

With a cherry disposition, I spoke with the reporter about how we were planning to give away more than 3,000 Christmas meals between the hours of noon and 3pm. All were welcome, whether homeless or not.

I had a few hours between my interviews and when I needed to be back at work to take photos at The Rescue Mission’s Christmas dinner and to tend to any news stations who might show up. I ran home, had my boyfriend meet me there, made some cinnamon rolls, ate breakfast, and then headed back to The Rescue Mission at around 11AM. I planned to be done by 1PM, at which time my boyfriend and I would go out for a delicious Chinese dinner.

Things did not go as planned. While the Christmas meal was turning out to be a huge success, my bad attitude somewhat returned when one particular reporter was hanging around longer than I would have liked. The other two news stations had finished, and all I was waiting for was for this one reporter to leave, so I could leave and spend the rest of the day with my boyfriend.

It was almost 2:30PM when I thought the reporter was finishing up.

“I’d like to talk to one more person,” he told me. “Maybe someone with a really great story of why they are eating here today.”

I text my boyfriend: “Who knows when I’ll be out of here. This reporter won’t leave!”

Noel, my boyfriend, was very understanding and patient. Chinese food would have to wait until I could leave work.

48427577_2175054049181395_2107974123585011712_nThe reporter ended up interviewing a man probably in his early 60’s. He was by himself, and appeared to be talking a lot to the reporter. I was thrilled, hoping this meant he was about to wrap things up. I was right.

“Natalie would you mind sitting across from him and chatting with him while I shoot some b-roll?” the reporter asked me.

“Sure,” I said, and I sat down across from the man and introduced myself. He said his name was Jerry.

“Have you been here before, Jerry?” I asked him, as the reporter walked around us taking video.

“Oh yes,” Jerry said. “I love the Mission. Many years ago I stayed here. Now I come back for holiday meals because I have nowhere else to go. But mainly I come here because there’s always someone who is willing to listen. I don’t have anyone in my life who will just sit and listen, but there’s always someone at The Rescue Mission who will.”

Then, the reporter tapped me on the shoulder, “I got what I need, Natalie, so I’m going to head out. Thanks for everything!”

With the reporter gone, I was free to go. But here was this man across from me, who just wanted someone to listen. I text Noel and told him I’d be even longer, that I had something important to do.

Jerry and I talked and talked. He told me that at his lowest point, he wanted to end his life. He drove onto the interstate, parked his car, and got out with intentions of walking into traffic. He said God then spoke to him and asked him if he really wanted his 11-year-old daughter to hear that her father was scraped off the highway. Jerry’s answer was, “No.”

The man I talked with wasn’t homeless. He has a home, a job, and a car. Jerry was just very lonely. He came to The Rescue Mission to find someone to listen, and God put me in his path. Although it meant putting off Chinese food even longer, I was incredibly thankful that for the second time on Christmas Day, God reminded me of what Christmas was all about – love for God and love for others.

It was a strange Christmas. It wasn’t what I imagined or hoped for. It was so much better. God reminded me of what’s important, and I hope to carry that with me for the rest of 2018 and into 2019.

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.”
Luke 2:14

My first year working for a homeless ministry…

dsc_0015bI still can’t believe I almost didn’t take this job. The only reason I was hesitant was because I had been at my previous job for only 8 months. Had I not listened to God’s obvious calling, I wouldn’t be at the greatest and most fulfilling job I have ever had. Yes, it took until I was 35 to find it.

It’s now been one year that I have been the Marketing Director of The Rescue Mission in Fort Wayne, Ind. I know that no job is perfect. But to be honest, I believe that this is as good as it gets. It’s the first Christian organization I’ve worked for where they actually practice what they preach- love, grace, and mercy, all while also having a firm foundation in TRUTH. I didn’t think it was possible.

I want to share a few things I’ve learned this past year, my first year working for The Rescue Mission, whose mission is: “To provide, through the power of Jesus Christ, a home for the homeless, food for the hungry, and hope for their future.”

14650670_10153778882461573_435273107762062935_nLesson #1: Christian women can be nice, non-judgmental, loving people

Seems kind of obvious, doesn’t it? While I’ve known many nice, non-judgmental, loving Christian women, I’ve known far more who weren’t, especially in the workplace. My faith has been completely restored in fellow Christian women this year. Don’t get me wrong, we do NOT always agree. There have been tough conversations. Women have hurt my feelings. I have hurt other women’s feelings. But we have the conversations that are necessary to move past them. I work with the most phenomenal women. I couldn’t ask for better women to have in my life, and the example they set has improved my faith and my walk with God.

Lesson #2: Everyone thinks they’re an expert on homelessness

20170113_142108-1New ideas can be groundbreaking. But they can also do more harm than good. I’ve learned this year that everyone has an idea of how to “solve” homelessness. These ideas typically come from people who haven’t even spent any time with the homeless. The Rescue Mission, on the other hand, is on the cutting edge of everything related to helping the homeless. We feed them. We give them shelter. We welcome them into our programming and show them how to find real change. But most importantly… we talk to them. Every single day. Our organization has been doing so for more than 100 years. And yet random people in the community think they have better ideas on how to help the homeless.

Lesson #3: Enabling is everywhere

real-change-logoI learned early on that enabling the homeless to stay homeless is very prevalent in our society. I sort of understood, but didn’t fully understand until I had a conversation with one of our residents.

This gentleman, in his 50’s, explained to me that people in town were keeping him homeless. Because they gave him everything he needed, he could easily stay homeless without being held accountable for anything. He could drink. He could do drugs. He didn’t have to get a job. Luckily, someone from The Rescue Mission offered him REAL CHANGE, and he entered the program. He told me, “With those people giving me everything I needed, I would have been homeless for the rest of my life.”

It’s tough to hear, especially when people’s hearts are in the right place, but it’s true. The whole idea of “toxic charity” and “when helping hurts” is a real issue. If you want to help the homeless, direct them to a place where they can change their lives. Don’t put a bandage on the problem. Don’t keep them homeless.

Lesson #4: Because of the nature of our clientele, there will be heartbreak

“Relapse is part of recovery,” they told me early on here at The Rescue Mission. Still, that didn’t make it any easier when people you grow to love and have so much hope for end up relapsing. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.

But the worst heartbreak of the year, for me, was when one of our older residents relapsed. He had fought alcohol addiction from a very young age. He lost everything because of it. He had been sober for two years at The Rescue Mission, and for some reason, one day he just left and didn’t say goodbye to anyone. This was heartbreaking for many of us. He was so caring and loved the Lord. But he left. And he relapsed, and it lead to his death.

I didn’t expect this kind of heartache when I started working here. In one year we had three memorial services for men who died. But what I do know about those men is that they loved Jesus. I know that each of them is now with Him. Their battles with mental illness and addictions are over. Praise God for that!

Lesson #5: God works miracles in the homeless

fb_img_1467557409741Earl. Kha. Doug. Samantha. Shannon. Robert. Aimee. Jennifer. Kurt. Derricia. David. Renee. Dave. Mary. Rose. Demetrius. Vickie. Megan.

Those are the names of either residents who have completed the long-term program at The Rescue Mission in the past year, or residents who have told me their stories for newsletters and videos. And let me tell you, to put it bluntly, these people have been through hell.

For some of them, ending up homeless came because of addiction. For others, homelessness was due to mental illness. And still for others, it was devastating trauma that left them homeless. Some are in their 20’s, others in their 60’s. But their stories, as brutal and heartbreaking as they are, have taken a turn. They each ended up at The Rescue Mission. They each learned a new way to live life with a faith in Jesus Christ.

I believe in miracles. When I see the transformation in these people, I am blown away that God is so powerful that He can take a woman who was once sexually abused by her own father and make her into an amazing mother with a job and a house. He took a heroine dealer and user and made him into a young man on fire for God. He took a Vietnamese refugee, who spent 20 years in prison for attempted murder, and made him into one of the hardest and most ethical workers at a factory in town.

staff-collageI can’t wait to see what next year brings. I know there will be heartache. I know that 4th quarter (our “Super Bowl” season) will make me want to tear my hair out. I know that I’ll probably grumble when our CEO sends me a text about work before 8AM on a Saturday. But I also know that God is using us to do His work, and I have never felt more purpose in my life.

I don’t have a husband, or children, or even a cat or a dog. But thank you, God, for my career and place of employment. I have never been so fulfilled.

“Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.”
1 Chronicles 16:11

Christmas in Jail

“The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made.”
Psalm 145:9

A middle-aged woman with her blonde hair in a ponytail held her hands together at her chest and wept. “Thank you,” she said. I could barely hear her through the thick door and barely see her through the small glass window.

“Thank you, thank you,” she kept saying. All I had done was set a plate of cookies and a bag of fruit and nuts outside her cell and told her, “Merry Christmas.” Her gratitude made it seem like I had done so much more.

12366393_10153146568311573_815796010385061589_nOn Saturday, I volunteered to spread some Christmas cheer at the Allen County jail with about 100 other volunteers, including my friend, Tawny. I was inspired to volunteer after taking a tour of the jail for my job as a Communications Coordinator with the St. Joseph Community Health Foundation.

My initial response was that I’d bake some cookies for the event, as each inmate receives a plate of cookies, but as I thought about it more, I knew I wanted to be there in person. I dropped off my cookies on Friday morning, and on Saturday at 1 pm, Tawny and I went back to the jail not really knowing what to expect.

“A few years ago I was locked up in here for a DUI,” one of the volunteers told us. “And there was supposed to be this huge fight on the day the volunteers were bringing us cookies. I cried when you guys came, and so did others, and it changed everything around us so much so that the big fight never happened. I knew I had to be a part of this ministry when I got out, so here I am today.”

We were a diverse group on Saturday. All of us Christians, but from different backgrounds. We were different ages, races and dressed differently, but we had one goal in mind: let those locked up know that someone cares about them.

The jail chaplain divided us into four groups. We would each be visiting eight cell blocks in the jail. Tawny and I both expected to be out in the open with the inmates, but that wasn’t the case.

The first cell block we went to was under tight security. It was a mid-sized room with cement floors and white walls. Lining the walls were the doors of the cells, and in the small windows of each door were pressed the faces of female inmates.

We sang “Joy to the World” as we walked in, and then began putting cookies and bags outside their cells. The women cheered, some cried, others yelled to make sure they thanked us.

It broke my heart more than you can imagine. I realize they did something wrong to get in there, but I just can’t imagine being so “bad” that you have to stay in your cell, your cage, for most of each and every day. I tried to put myself in their shoes, and it was just so difficult to see them trapped, and for the rest of us to be so free.

There were only two cell blocks we went in that were open. We got to actually hand the cookies and bags to the inmates. It was nice to have that interaction. It was fun to sing carols with them and see the joy on many of their faces.

At each cell block, two people from our group would talk. A few pastors read scripture, while others told parables from the Bible. They asked for volunteers at each cell block, and at one point my friend Tawny spoke up.

“I’ll speak,” she said, and then looked at me. “Natalie?”

Sure I had given my testimony plenty of times, but I was typically prepared well in advance. But Tawny inspired me, and I agreed to give mine as well.

We walked into the cell block where men of all shapes and sizes and races had their faces pressed against the glass windows in their cell doors to see all of us and hear what we had to say.

God gave Tawny and I just the right words to give our testimonies in lockup. Short and sweet, we shared of the wonderful love of Jesus, and how life is so much better with faith in Him.

At about the sixth cell block, I was taking cookies to put outside a door when I looked through the window to say hello to the inmates inside. One was at the window, but another was resting on his cot at the back of the cell. We made eye contact and immediately recognized each other.

He jumped off his cot and ran to the door.

“I know you from the Rescue Mission!” I yelled through the door.

He was smiling so big as he nodded and said, “You serve breakfast!” referring to how I volunteer to serve breakfast at a local homeless shelter. He was an elderly gentlemen who came through the line each time I was there.

And now, he was in jail.

“I will pray for you!” I told him through the door.

He smiled and said,”God bless you!”

At our final cell block we did everything we’d done at all the other cell blocks. We sang carols, gave cookies, listened to testimonies, and before leaving we walked up to each window to tell the inmates, “Merry Christmas!” The final window had lasting impact on me and on Tawny.

The man inside stared through his window, his eyes red and filled with tears. His bottom lip quivered and it was clear that he was so touched by what was happening. It took everything in us not to break down and cry ourselves.

Christmas in jail. This was it. They don’t get anything on Christmas day. Our cookies and visit are the extent of their holiday cheer.

Some people found it odd that we went to spread holiday cheer to a group of people who had broken the law. Some would only be there for a year or so, and others were just waiting to be transferred to prison. So why, why do something kind for all these people who have so clearly made horrible choices?

Because Jesus would have. Plain and simple.

Jesus was born so He could die for my sins. And your sins. And the sins of every single inmate in the Allen County Jail. Jesus tells us in Luke 3:36, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

I have a new holiday tradition: Christmas at the jail. To do something so small that means a lot to so many people is inspiring. I know it wasn’t the work we did on Saturday that left so many inmates in tears, but it was the spirit of God, the spirit of Christmas.

“For you, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive;
and plenteous in mercy to all them that call on you.”

Psalm 86:5

The Mission Trip “Bonus”

When I returned from two weeks in Niger with Jesus Film Ministries in 2009, my parents picked me up at the Indianapolis airport. My car was at their house, and I remember driving home in the middle of the night. I cried. I cried a lot. The people I had seen, the lives God changed… it was too much to comprehend as I drove through a deserted downtown Fort Wayne back to my apartment.

We also got back late two years later when I went to Nicaragua with my church and Food for the Hungry. I got in my car at the church, started to drive home with some Chris Tomlin in my CD player and once again, I cried. I couldn’t get the faces of those kids out of my head. I couldn’t forget the sound of my sponsor child saying, “Adios!” when we parted ways in his village.

Mission trips are about people, not places. They are about God, not us. I say that because you will also notice that mission trips typically involve a couple days of sightseeing. I don’t want my supporters to think their money went to a “vacation.” Tomorrow I leave for Zambia, and yes, we will spend a few days sightseeing. We’ll go to Victoria Falls, and on a day safari. We’re also lucky enough to have long layovers in London on the way to Zambia, and on the way back. Any money spent there will come out of my pocket, not from support raised.

To me, sightseeing is an important part of mission trips. For one, it’s a way to see God’s natural beauty in a way we never have before. Two, it’s a way to see and experience the culture of the place we’re visiting.

Here are some pictures from some of the sightseeing I’ve done on mission trips:

We ate at some pretty awesome restaurants in Niger. One was a French place where I had the best veal marsala I've ever tasted!
We ate at some pretty awesome restaurants in Niger. One was a French place where I had the best veal marsala I’ve ever tasted!
One day in Niger we took boat rides to look for hippos. We saw some peak their heads out from under the water. It was amazing! The boats, however, were a little scary!
One day in Niger we took boat rides to look for hippos. We saw some peak their heads out from under the water. It was amazing! The boats, however, were a little scary!
This is our group preparing to go looking for giraffes in the Niger desert. That's not a van for a zoo or anything, that's the vehicle we used all week. We literally saw giraffes in their natural habitat.
This is our group preparing to go looking for giraffes in the Niger desert. That’s not a van for a zoo or anything, that’s the vehicle we used all week. We literally saw giraffes in their natural habitat.
So beautiful. We were so close, and they were free.
So beautiful. We were so close, and they were free.
We had an eight-hour layover in Paris on the way back from Niger. It was just long enough to run into town and see the Eiffel Tower.
We had an eight-hour layover in Paris on the way back from Niger. It was just long enough to run into town and see the Eiffel Tower.
In Nicaragua we spent our final day visiting the market and hanging out at the beach. Was such a beautiful place!
In Nicaragua we spent our final day visiting the market and hanging out at the beach. Was such a beautiful place!

God knows our hearts. He knows that we’re going on this mission trip to impact the lives of kids at Lifesong for Orphans. But don’t be surprised when I return and post pictures of Victoria Falls, a safari, and London. Know that when I get in my car to drive home after my trip, I’ll burst into tears because of the children, not because of a waterfall and some animals.

Could it happen to you? Of course. Tragedy knows no limits.

When the September 11 terrorist attacks happened, we all said, “Things like this don’t happen in America.”

But then things like that continued to happen, and not from foreign terrorists, but from our own people.

While tragedies like Sandy Hook and now the Boston Marathon break our hearts, if you stop and think about it, senseless killings happen in America every single day. It might be a drive-by shooting, a teen committing suicide, or a “doctor” killing a living, breathing baby after a botched abortion attempt.

Life is apparently just a worthless thing to so many people, whether they are taking lives in large numbers or just one person.

Growing up in America, I never really felt scared or nervous. Even as an adult I once had a student in my car (on our way to church) who pulled out a handgun, and I wasn’t scared. Lately, though, I’ve found myself a little nervous at a few particular spots.PhotoGrid_1365290616255

My friend and I went to see Jurassic Park a few weeks ago. I rarely go to the movies anymore because they are so expensive, so the shooting in Colorado last year didn’t even cross my mind. That is, until my friend said, “Make sure we know where the exits are.” She went on to tell me that a friend of hers said he always checks now, just in case he has to make a quick exit. I’ll be honest, until the movie started and I got engrossed in it, I had a nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach. Would someone bust in with a gun? It was the first time I ever felt unsafe in a theater.

Most of my trips to the bank are at the ATM or the drive-thru window, but last week I had a huge bag of coins to deposit, which meant I had to go inside the actual bank. I’ve never in my life thought twice about walking into a bank, but as soon as I walked in, I remembered all the news stories about bank robberies in town lately. It seems like every single day there is a hold up at a bank here in Fort Wayne. I got a little nervous. Would someone be here to rob this bank today?

I believe we shouldn’t live our lives in fear, we shouldn’t let the sick people in the world make us scared, but it’s getting to the point where it’s tough to not think, “Could what happened THERE, happen HERE?” And let’s be honest… it certainly could.

The only peace that can be found in this world today is Jesus Christ. I think more and more people are seeing this as they search for something to believe in, something pure and perfect to cling to, something they can put their faith in because there is NO hope in this world outside of Christ.

I don’t want to die anymore than the next person, but at least I know where I’m going when I do. And at least I have that to cling to as this world continues to fall apart and destroy itself.

“… I am the resurrection and the life. The person who believes in me, even though he dies, will live.”
John 11:25

Such pride and disappointment…

That's me- cheering for the Troup Tigers at a football game in Georgia in 2007.
That’s me- cheering for the Troup Tigers at a football game in Georgia in 2007.

Having taught high school English for five and a half years, I had the pleasure of attempting to educate nearly 800 students. While I didn’t succeed at educating some of them, I certainly did succeed at getting to know my students and loving them with all my heart.

When I was teaching, I didn’t allow students to be my friends on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, for obvious reasons. But now that I’m not teaching, I’ll allow it (unless the kid was super creepy). Social media has given me the opportunity to see what my former students are up to.

Some make me smile.

Others devastate me.

I smile when I see the class clown as a Marine. So serious, so important, so driven.

I smile when I see that students who struggled to pass my English class are now graduating from college.

I smile when I see the heartbreaker has found the love of his life and is getting married.

I smile when I see the jock getting ready to open his own barber shop.

I smile when I see the yearbook editor doing mission work overseas.

Then there are the others.

I am sad when I see they’re doing drugs.

I am sad when I see them have kid, after kid, after kid.

I am sad when I see they pride themselves in being “thugs.”

I am sad when I see they love to advertise the fact that they have guns- and aren’t afraid to use them.

I am sad when I see that they clearly think that’s what life has to be like.

And then there’s the one you invested so much time in, only to see him a complete disaster down the road. I’ve seen my fair share of former students in the news, and not for good reasons.

If you’re a teacher who has a heart for the “bad” kids, you know who I’m talking about. For me, there was one specific “bad” kid I cared about so much my first two years teaching in Georgia. He won my heart over the first day of school. He even eventually got the reputation of “Miss Trout’s favorite.” He was a mess, no one believed in him, no one saw the good in him, but I did. Despite the fact that he was a drug dealer and whatever else he did outside of school, I loved him like he was my little brother. And I was going to save him.

One of the hardest things I had to learn in teaching was that you can’t save them all. While that doesn’t mean you stop trying to “save” all the ones who need it, it means you have to know you tried your best to make an impact on someone’s life and how they turn out but that sometimes… you don’t.

I shed so many tears over this kid when I was his English teacher for two years. He was never rude or disrespectful to me. Well, if he was, he’d be back later that day to apologize. I didn’t let him get away with things. I wrote my fair share of office referrals for the kid. But for some reason, I never stopped caring about him. Even when I moved back to my home state of Indiana, hundreds of miles away, I prayed for him. Still do.

And then a few weeks ago I saw on his friend’s Instagram, a photo of him with the words under it, “Free Marquez” (name has been changed). My heart dropped. I knew right away it had to do with drugs. The journalist in me did my research, though. It was much more than drugs.

There were actually six charges. Two of which were armed robbery and aggravated assault.

It made me cry. Was I completely crazy to ever believe this kid had a chance? I knew his home life. I knew the people he ran with. I knew that not long after I left Georgia, he dropped out of school. So why am I so shocked?

Because my heart is broken.

One of the things America has seen recently in the wake of what happened in Newtown is the fact that teachers love their students. They would do anything for them. As crazy as they are, as out of control as they are, as completely hopeless they sometimes are, teachers love their students. No matter what.

You would think this makes me give up on Marquez. What could possibly change now? Plenty. Here’s where my spiritual gift of Mercy comes in, and my faith in God. I’m still going to pray for him. I’m still going to believe that one day he’ll fix his life. He might not, and I might never know what happens to him. But I’m not giving up. Teachers don’t give up.

I might not be a teacher anymore according to the state of Indiana, but in heart I will always be a teacher. I still refer to my former students as my “kids.” Like a mother, I’m very proud of so many of them. Words can’t express how proud I am! And like a mother, I love my “kids” unconditionally. No matter what he’s done, that includes Marquez.

“Some of your friends are… terrible!”

I’ve heard that phrase quite a few times from my out-of-town friends since I’ve moved to Fort Wayne.

“Isn’t she supposed to be a good friend of yours?”

“None of my best friends would ever do that to me.”

“What’s with these people you know in Fort Wayne? Some of your friends are… terrible!”

Becca, me and Heather - these two girls are two of my true best friends. They know the meaning of the word "friendship."
Becca, me and Heather – these two girls are two of my true best friends. They know the meaning of the word “friendship.”

Of course at first you don’t want to see it. It’s hard to believe that you have “friends” who are actually the people in your life pulling you down, holding you back, and stabbing you in the back while they’re at it.

I think about some of my female “friends” here in Fort Wayne, and I kind of see what my out-of-town friends mean.

More than a year ago I was the best of friends with someone here in town. She was very manipulative and took advantage of me and my kindness on many occasions. She didn’t know the meaning of the word “loyal” by any means. This girl was a liar to me and to the people around me, and she destroyed relationships I had with other people because of her lies. She also tried to hook up my ex (who I was still in love with at the time) with his ex-girlfriend (who she barely knew). Wow. Some best friend. When I told an out-of-town friend this, she was shocked. Not one of my best friends from IU would ever, EVER do something like that. I believe my friend’s words were, “Why do so many of your friends suck?!”

Well, I ended that friendship more than a year ago, but it appears I’ve still got some snakes in my life. This weekend I was telling a friend of mine in Texas about a conversation I had with a “friend” this weekend. She was like, “Are you serious? Isn’t she supposed to be your friend? Why on earth would she say those things to you?” And she was right. Those things shouldn’t have been said to me, and they wouldn’t have been said to me by anyone who was a real friend.

It’s very sad to me that so many of my out-of-town friends have pointed out that some of my female friends here in Fort Wayne are pretty terrible friends. (There are other times it’s come up with other people, more than the two I mentioned here.) I know there will always be selfish people with ulterior motives in the world, but how did I become “friends” with so many of them? And forget trying to explain to a guy that another woman is a bad friend. That’s just a waste of everyone’s time – especially if the girl is “hot”.

Sure I’ve been burned in relationships with guys before, who hasn’t? But in the past couple of years I’ve really, REALLY been burned in female friendships, and it has me putting my guard up with any woman I meet who could be a potential “good friend.” But maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe guarding myself a little more when it comes to friendships is exactly what I need to do.