You couldn’t find two more different women than my friend, Kristine, and I.  We don’t agree on anything.  She loves to date.  It is her sport of choice and she is fabulous at it.  I would much rather go to the dentist than go out on a date with someone that doesn’t move me.  Unfortunately, most of the time, I am moved to tears. She’s detail oriented and knows what bra she wore on the day she met her first boyfriend.  I can’t tell you what bra I wore yesterday, or even if I wore one.  When I say I spent a lot of money on a pair of shoes I mean $150.  She considers $350 to be almost free.

Our friends call us the odd couple and I have to agree.  Everyone I know is baffled by our close friendship and love for each other.  In fact, no one can figure out how we do it but we do.

I don’t go to Kristine to get the same opinion as mine but to get her unique opinion; even when I believe it’s wrong.  Through her friendship, and because of the differences between us, I am challenged to question what I believe. I see things about myself that I was afraid to look at before.  Consequently, my beliefs are based more on a deep-rooted feeling of what’s right for me.

I now know for sure that I do not want to pierce my nose; that I am, at times, too emotional for my own good, and that I am capable of loving someone without having to change them. I’m not saying this is easy.  There are many things I’ll never understand about Kristine but I have learned to let those things go.  I am able to step back and see the beauty of the bigger picture.

At a party many years ago, someone commented that one of my dearest friends, Rick, and I had nothing in common.  They couldn’t understand why we were so close.  I’d never really thought about it before that moment but I remember looking across the room at him and trying to see what this other person saw.  All I could see was the man who dropped what he was doing on his way out of town because I needed help moving some furniture.  A man who sent me candy when I was alone on Valentine’s Day.  Someone who accepted me without make-up or clean hair.   A man with whom I never needed to pretend.

I’m 15 years older now and many things in my life have changed.  Rick passed on unexpectedly, but we were the closest of friends until the end.  He was so many things that I will never be – so many wonderful things.  What he brought to my life I could never have found by myself.

Over the years, people have come and gone from my life.   Some of them looked like the perfect friend.  Looks can be deceiving; just like talk is cheap.  It’s easy to say the word friend, but much harder to live it through disagreements, relocations, changes in jobs, and changes in people.

When I look to my life for meaning I look to the people in my life.  These people are Muslims, Christians, African Americans, Caucasians, Democrats, Republicans, women, men, and children.  The differences are too many to count.  When I look at each of them and hear their story, I see the world from a fresh perspective.  I may never be a Muslim, but I can pray with them.  I can’t change the color of my skin, but I can try to understand the African American experience.  It just takes an open heart.

In the constitution it states, “we are all created equal.”  Thank God, we’re not all created the same.  Friends are a meaningful part of life.  A greater understanding of who we are comes when we step outside ourselves and love someone completely different.  In the end, isn’t that what it’s all about?  Love.

Caren is the author of You & MeYou & Me encourages children from ages one to eight to celebrate their unique qualities and embrace their differences through the use of exciting graphics and text. As a special bonus feature, a coloring book in the back gives kids the opportunity to use their imagination to tell their own story of diversity.