I met her in third grade and we were friends from then on.
We went through middle school together, and my friend was sometimes picked on for being so good, so nice. She was a cute blonde girl, smart, and kind: in short, an easy target for mean girls.
I asked if the teasing bothered her.
“Yes and no. It’s their problem. I’m not going to stop being nice just because they’re mean. And since when is it bad to be nice?”
She moved to a different school, but we remained friends, dipping in and out of each other’s lives. She got married just out of college. Predictably, people warned her that she was too young, that she was missing out on living. She was adamant, “How can I miss out on living when I am going to make a life with the man I love?”
I loved her gentleness and admired that cool, contained compass that kept her focused on her goals.
Since third grade she had wanted to be a doctor. She became a doctor.
Once, when white water rafting in the Canadian wilderness, she fell out of the raft and opened up her shin on a rock. The tour group pulled over and gathered around.
“How far to a hospital?” she asked.
“We will have to air-lift you out of here,” answered the guide, light-headed at the sight of the exposed tissues of my friend’s leg.
My friend probed her own wound. “Do you have a needle and thread?”
She sewed her leg up and continued down the rapids.
She wanted to live. She travelled, she did her sports, she had her children, and she never lost that compass or that kindness.