Friendship is one of those intangible words we throw around a lot. But what is a true friend anyway?
Just recently, I witnessed a great discovery in the classroom I work in. The sixth graders were asked to write a poem about friendship. I work part-time as an aide to my nephew Leo, who has ASD. In the older days, I would have thought to myself:
Friendship is a really abstract thing. So is poetry. I’m going to have to really scaffold this and help him do this assignment. Should we draw out a comic book? Brainstorm some examples that are meaningful to him? (The kids had been learning about similes in class).
But instead, I quieted all of those overcompensating instincts and asked Leo: what do you picture when you think of the word ‘friend’?
“Ping pong.” He said (Leo is a great ping pong player and it’s a great outlet for him at recess on cold winter days.)
I passed him the worksheet that went along with the poetry assignment and faded away. My favorite 12-year-old on the planet wrote this poem:
is like a game of ping pong
The ball is
white as an egg
Back and forth
Rhythm like a drum
If it hits the net
I start again
I like to play slow
like a turtle
I keep my eye on the ball
I feel interested.
Like every other kid in the class, it took Leo many drafts to get the poem to this point. He went through an editing process with his teacher and classmates until he arrived at the final product.
Typing it on the computer, during our homework time together, he was able to play around with how it looked on the page.
But I think it says so much about what friendship means to him.
After all, isn’t that the only thing that really matters?