My Friend TJ

“People come and people go, they take and they give.
They build you up just to tear you down, that’s just the way it is.
All you need is one friend, to get you through the day, one friend that will never go away…..”
-Keb' Mo' 

(Note to readers: I wrote this back in December and thought maybe this is just for me, but I realize it is still so important and I wanted to share…)

Oh, this song was going through my head last Friday. I started working at a new job in 2012.  A couple of weeks after I had been working there a new hire showed up. His name was T.J. He was quiet. He also had the same haircut as my brother, bald. 

I started training him and we both felt like the new kids on the block, so we started helping each other learn the ropes. I loved making jokes to him that I had seniority over him because I started 2 weeks earlier…that is all I had over him. He has more skills, experiences, certifications and brains than I could ever dream of having. He is a retired cop from upstate New York, he graduated from Culinary School, he is a personal trainer, he teaches so many fitness classes and can educate you on how every muscle works, he raised his two children alone and is an amazing father, and most of all, he always “had my back.”

His mother was a nurse, poet and chaplain. He speaks of her with such tenderness. One day we spent the day going to every Celtic store and jewelry store in Austin to try to find a cross she had given him years ago but he had lost. I just had this feeling he needed to wear that again to keep her love with him.  

I guess most of all, TJ feels like family.

When my brother passed away I immediately called TJ and told him I could not get to work. He said, “Do not worry, I will cover.” He probably covered my shifts for the next two weeks. I don’t even remember hearing about what happened. He just did it.

Well, we have been work friends now for 2 years and even my family loves him. He drives a motorcycle, loves dogs (oh, I forgot he is a dog trainer, too). He had a Great Dane that passed away this year and I made him a bracelet the same color as his dog. He loved that dog and was heartbroken that he was gone. TJ wears that bracelet every day. It is one of those tender things that surprises me when I see him sporting a bracelet made with wood beads and those knots of mine that truly connect straight to my heart.

Oh, the stories could go on and on….he tolerates all of my pest-like behaviors. He has actually told me that one of his ears is hard of hearing from a gun-shot during his detective days. Now I am not certain that is true, or if he needs an excuse to not listen to half of the things I tell him. 

But, I know that angels land in our path when we need them. He became the brother I needed at just the time I needed him. His life is going great places….I know it for sure.

TJ landed in my path when I needed someone to step in and be my friend. I am so thankful for meeting him and knowing him. He is a gift I will be thankful for forever. Good Luck TJ….go fly!

I wish him luck and know he will do great things.  Most of all, I miss him already.

I emailed this to TJ the day he left…it is true and makes me cry. 

If you have a special “TJ” in your life, maybe this poem would make their day...please share.

Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and send you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

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