Sunday, June 24, 2012

Friendly Friend

When Bill Cosby's son Ennis was killed in 1997, the superstar comedian lost his only son. But, more importantly to him, he lost one of his greatest heroes; Mr. Cosby admired Ennis' dedication to overcome his struggles (like dyslexia) and his positive attitude. A friend of Ennis' described him: "[Ennis] was a friend to everyone that he'd met and would refer to people as such," said his boarding school classmate and best friend, Phil Caputo, an L.A. attorney, on Larry King Live. [source]

"He'd say, 'Hello Friend.' " Indeed, the greeting has become part of Ennis's legacy."

I was 12-years-old when this senseless murder happened. My family is basically its own chapter of the Bill Cosby fan club, so we were devastated for him, like most of the country. I recall so many of the interviews given and memories shared of Ennis Cosby; being 12 usually doesn't lend itself to tuning in to these kinds of serious matters, but for some reason I knew I had to pay attention.

And 15 years later, it's obvious to me why I was so drawn to that news story.

During the aftermath of his death, I decided to adopt Ennis Cosby's habit of calling everyone "friend." That sounded like an easy way to let people know that I recognized them in this big world and wanted them to know that I cared, on some level. And since then, I literally call people of all walks of life "friend." And not in the sense like, "Some of my best friends are transient hobos."

When I speak with someone at the grocery store or on the train, I refer to them as Friend. At times when I need to reference someone I don't know in public to my children, I say, "Do you see that friend over there?" People that I have known for literally my whole life are often greeted with a casual "Hey, friend." I believe that this habit shows people that I want to connect with them, even if for a moment.

And almost every time I use that moniker, I think about Ennis Cosby. I know that his death meant so much more to so many other people, but if he hadn't died, that People magazine article may not have been written; I would have never made the conscious decision to follow his lead.

I would love it if my legacy were calling every person I met "Friend."

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