There is too much hatred and division in society today. No one seems to be able to get along with others because of the diversity in individuals. Yet it is possible to bond in friendship with someone in whom diversity exists. It is possible to find commonality with those with whom we don’t necessarily “geehaw.” In the fall of 1971, as a college sophomore attending Campbell University, there came out for cross country a young man named Jerry Dodgion, nicknamed “Bugs.” He only had one year of college left as he had dropped out to join the Marines. After a four year hitch in the military, he returned to college to finish his degree. It turned out he had no athletic eligibility left because of his age, so since he couldn’t run on the team, he became the team manager. Jerry and I were as opposite as yea and nay. We were like light and darkness. The likelihood of he and I becoming friends was slim and none.
Yet, in spite of being polar opposites we became friends… good friends. We were as opposite as yea and nay. We were like oil and water. I was 19, he was 27. I was 6 ft ½ inch, he was 5 ft 9 inches. He was a hardcore Marine veteran who had served in Vietnam, I at the time was a pacifist. He was from Virginia, I was from North Carolina. I was a Christian, he was not. He was a math major, I was a religion major. I disliked math, he disliked religion. I was soft spoken, he was outspoken. I was an introvert, he was an extrovert. He was abrasive and said whatever he thought, I kept things to myself and bit my tongue. He was constantly drinking coffee for the caffeine boost, I detested coffee because of the artificial boost it gave! We disagreed on most every topic we discussed.
We seemingly had nothing (and I mean nothing) in common, so how did we become good friends? There was one interest we had in common that we both loved….running. Running was our ground of commonality. We trained together, hung out together, ate together, ran races together. The picture is from an article about a marathon Bugs and I ran together in January 1972. We were almost inseparable. Where you saw one you saw the other. We added to the mosaic of who each of us were. We remained friends and in contact beyond our college days. He came to hear me preach several times after I entered the ministry, and the last time I saw him he had started going to church. Sadly, “Bugs” died in April 1996 of an unexpected heart attack. He was only 51. I still miss my friend…the friend in whom we had nothing in common!!
The point of my reminiscing is that it is possible to find common ground with those with whom we may have more diversity than commonality. It would truly be a better world if we laid down our hate, biases and prejudices, and sought to find the commonality in each other and to exhibit love instead of intolerance. It is possible….for “Bugs” and I are proof it can be done!