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Posted: December 25, 2010 12:30 a.m.

Join my Christmas mission

I’ve wished for a white Christmas so many times it seems unreal that it may actually happen today.

I’ll have to hope that Santa was listening to my other wish this year, a cure for cancer.

Eight years ago I was living in a new town.

I joined a church, but most people were younger, older, had kids, or possessed some other trait that I suppose made them figure someone else would reach out in friendship.

Next I tried to sell Tupperware, but those women seemed to want to sell product, not just hang out as friends.

I hosted an open house which drew in a few retired neighbors with gossip about each other, but they already had friends and family to fill their time.

It was almost like being back in elementary school, when I was clueless as to how to intentionally make a friend.

In the seventh grade, I went to my first district 4-H event at Rock Eagle. I knew several other girls in our group but didn’t identify any as a close friend.

Somehow, while waiting for project results down by the office, a girl from another county struck up a conversation.

We hung out for the rest of the weekend, and I gave her one of my 4-H buttons as a sign of our new friendship.

I guess we were used to having friends you saw regularly at school, so we neglected to exchange mailing addresses and lost touch.

The event still sticks in my mind, though, because it was when I first discovered I could turn a complete stranger into a friend.

Much like that weekend 18 years ago, I still remember the phone conversation eight years ago when an acquaintance from work and church said she’s been out of touch on a project because she’d been too sick to leave home.

So sick, she’d neglected to go to the grocery store in a few days.

I suppose it’s my nature to want to help, but there was something more that day as I assured her I wish she’d have called me.

From that point on, our friendship grew.

We sat in the same pew at church, had lunch on occasion and talked more often.

In a town where I felt a million miles from anyone familiar, it was a relief to finally make a friend.

She introduced me to the best rib joint on earth, we went to a Friday night football game, and we even signed up for the church retreat as a family.

Whenever either of us had a rough day, we’d call and make plans to discuss it over Mexican food.

Two of those dinners stick out in my mind: the last one before her cancer treatment began, and the first celebratory one after her treatment ended a year later.

Before her treatment, she rushed to complete a million other tasks before we could meet, and it was nearly closing time when we arrived.

We didn’t rush, though, and they wiped down every other table, cleaned the floors, cut off the music, and gathered around our table.

Any other night, I’d have been guilted into leaving, but who knew when she’d feel well enough to do this again?

I won’t say I didn’t worry during that year, but I always felt sure that in this day and age, breast cancer isn’t a death sentence.

In the four springs since she went into remission, I’ve celebrated by raising money for Relay for Life in Ann’s honor.

My current team is Newton 4-H, led by youth whose mothers defeated this menace.

I have to admit, though, my participation has become a little routine.

Several weeks ago Ann called me with news that would have sent us straight to dinner if I hadn’t moved back here: the cancer is back.

So this year, topping my Christmas list is a cure.

If you’d like to join my Christmas mission, make a donation to the American Cancer Society through the Newton 4-H Relay team online or by check at our office.

4-H taught me to make friends, and it showed me how to make a difference.

So today I Relay for Ann, whose friendship is the best gift.

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