In each chapter I tackle one of those ten questions, offering some thoughts about how you might find your own, more durable answers and deeper ways of living and exploring answers that might be misleading or hurtful.
I invite you to use the Dave Test not just to examine the value of what you think, do, and say. I urge you to use the questions to craft a different way of living and caring for yourself and for others.
The Dave Test is not a method. No one ever saved a friend by arming oneself with the right answers or by making compassionate noises. What we need when we suffer are companions who are, by nature, able to walk with us and love us. Each of those people will look a bit different. Some of them will look very different from what you might expect.
When I shared an earlier draft of this introduction with Dave, he sent it along to one of his friends who wrote back:
Thanks, buddy! It reads well and is embarrassingly kind toward your two asshole friends. Doesn't he know how we laughed when you fell in the lake in Canada? . . . Yes, he mentions going to the shooting range, but why doesn't he mention that we comment that you can't see for shit? ... P.S. Where are you? Are you and your truck available on Friday afternoon? And don't give me shit about being out of town or not feeling well. This is all about me.
There is no prescription for caring this way, and this version of caring might not be your cup of tea (or bottle of beer). You may not like the language or this kind of humor. For example, my wife would not talk to her friends the same way that some guys talk to one another.
That's not the point. You don't need to use the language of Dave's friend's e-mail as your model. Here's what happened:
- Dave's friend acknowledged Dave's illness and its difficulties.
- He treated Dave like a whole human being who didn't need to be coddled or pitied.
- He used humor.
- He talked to Dave like an adult whom he still expected to function in the world.
- And he gave Dave a job, even if it was just lending Dave's pickup truck to a friend.
There were other things that didn't happen:
- My brother's friend didn't try to make himself comfortable at Dave's expense by minimizing his struggle.
- He didn't assume a faintly tragic tone and try to make Dave a project or a charity case.
- And he didn't try to make himself feel good at Dave's expense by somehow calling attention to "what a really good friend he has been."
That's a lot to accomplish in the few lines of an e-mail message, but it's all there and captures the goal of this book. The Dave Test is designed to start us on that journey of becoming our own versions of people who care: people who can be themselves, who have found a new place to sit with their own suffering, and who can walk with friends in the hardest of times.
This journey is about soul craft. It's about growing up and about becoming fully alive, fully human, and completely available to the people we love.
Suffering and sorrow are not things God sends our way, but they can and do radicalize life. We can allow that radicalization to grow within us. We can let it change, deepen, and ennoble us. Or we can run from the challenge it presents. But if we do run, then we will live our lives in hiding—hiding from ourselves, from one another, from life's realities, and from God.
My hope is that this book will provide a place to do the kind of soul work that will spare us that experience and enrich our shared journey.