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One of the Most Annoying People I Ever Met Became My Friend

hitmanI just saw one of those Facebook posters that read, “Repost this if you know someone who is still alive because you can’t afford a hitman.” It reminded me of one of the most annoying people I’ve ever met. He attended Bible college with me back in 1987.

I don’t know why he bothered me so much in retrospect. He wasn’t too bright, but I tolerate a lot of dim and dull people in the world. He was funny looking, but so am I. He was extremely short and oddly hairy… think Lord of the rings Dwarf Lord, but, again, so what? He was much older than I was (40 something to my 19 years) but there were other older students who I admired greatly. It was something intangible…well not exactly intangible. His voice was irritating… like fingernails on a chalkboard. He was a middle aged man who behaved like a child. (Interestingly enough, I’ve had the same accusation hurled at me on more than a few occasions because of my own sometimes silly approach to life.) With him, however, it really got to me. Every time he opened his mouth it was not only an unhelpful addition to the discussion, but was, at best, some merely tangential tag on, and, worst of all, not funny… (A virtual crime in my books). He wasn’t just not funny to me, but not funny to anyone. Perhaps he was trying to be funny, but he failed like the failing of Custer.

I ended up on a ministry team with him one summer… which is when my general annoyance with him boiled over into intense dislike. We were traveling to work in a program called NYSUM (New York School of Urban Ministry) and were bound together almost 16 hours a day seven days a week for several weeks that were preceded by many hours of intense meetings. By half way through our summer, I wanted to kill him. (I’m sure other people on the team wanted to kill me.)

One day, our team leader needed only two people to complete a job. In her wisdom, masked as insanity, she selected me and “the most annoying person I’d ever met.” We had to get on the subway make our way to some remote urban location and hand out pamphlets for an upcoming church event there. The whole trip our conversation went something like this fiction.

Me: Okay, we have to take the train to X stop and then switch to Y train.

Him: I don’t know why so many people like blueberry pancakes.

Me: Do you have everything you need for the day before we leave?

Him: My Mother’s not here.

Me: Is that a, yes, or a no?

Him: It’s zippity skippy all the way there!

Me: Okay, I’ll take that as a yes. Let’s go.

Once we arrived, him chattering like a drunken six year old with A.D.D. the entire trip, and me seething with murder in my heart, the ministry secretary sat us in some chairs in front of a window with the sun shining in on us… and… they… left us there… for sooooooo long that we both became profoundly ill from the exposure. We were nauseous, had horrible headaches, and felt dizzy.

We left, pamphlets in hand, amazingly altered. I was too sick to be angry and he was too sick to be annoying. We simply started talking and asking each other questions about our lives… nothing else to do, and it distracted us from our shared misery.

I discovered that he had anxiety issues and that his mindless chatter was nothing, but the product of his nervousness about having to interact with people he didn’t know. My annoyance with him exacerbated his stupid blather because he did not know how to deal with people who obviously disliked him… a problem he faced a lot, being an odd duck.

He had overcome terrible alcohol addictions and came to Christ in prison after getting three years for apparently (he had no memory of the incident) beating up a woman in a drunken stupor. His struggle with issues of rejection (He really was a strange fellow.) drove him deeper and deeper into despair, and he was well on his way toward suicide when he was arrested. He remembers nothing, but going out for a drink and waking up in prison a short while before being dragged before a judge. It saved his life.

In prison, in fear for his life every moment, he went to a Bible study group and met Jesus Christ. After years of striving to learn as much as he could about Scripture and Christ, he, like me, thought he might get more meaningful discipleship in a Bible college setting.

As he talked on, normal and not chatty and random, I felt like the biggest jerk on earth.

We became friends. When we returned to college in the fall we often ate our meals together. When other students, who despised him like I once did, insulted him either to his face or behind his back, I became his most aggressive advocate. I advised them, “There is a lot more depth to that man than you see; he is worth getting to know.”

To this day, whenever I meet people that I instantly dislike, I think of him. I check myself. I say, “Lord, help me see in this person, what you see in them.”

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