Summary: God has given us friends, but so many people have been hurt by their friends and wonder if a true friend can ever be found.
"Who Needs Friends?"
Things were tough on Ted when he was born. He was born in Chicago in 1942 to Polish parents. His father was a sausagemaker and his mother took care of the boys. He was hospitalized when he was only six months old after he suffered an allergic reaction to a drug given to him. During that time he was neither held or hugged by his mom and dad - doctors orders. When he came home from the hospital he was described by his mom and dad as listless and withdrawn.
Ted’s early childhood was one of continued withdrawal. His mother and father were bent on intellectual stimulation and would take him to museums and art galleries as a baby to try and stimulate him.
Ted sprinted through high school at Evergreen Park High. He avoided human contact, but did play in the band for two years, participated in the Coin Club, Biology Club, German Club, and the Math Club. He never struck his classmates as strange or weird - he was just withdrawn. In his early years he was described as a "discipline problem" by Robert Rippey, a retired math teacher at Evergreen Park High School. Discipline problems aside, Ted headed off to Harvard at age 16.
At Harvard Ted shared a preppy suite with five other guys. Michael Rohr, a roommate of Ted’s said, "I can’t remember having a conversation with him." Patrick McIntosh says, "Ted had a special talent for avoiding relationships by moving quickly past groups of people and slamming the door behind him."
Ted finished his degree at Harvard at age 20 and headed off for the University of Michigan where he received his Master’s and Ph.D., then he went to the University of California, Berkeley, to teach. University of Michigan professor, Peter Durea says, "Ted did not go out of his way to make social contact, but he didn’t strike me as being pathological. People in math are sometimes a bit strange. It goes with creativity."
Finally, Ted dropped out of civilization and moved to Montana in 1971. In 1990, Ted took an even deeper plunge into isolation. His father committed suicide and Ted didn’t even attend the funeral. He said he had developed a heart arrhythmia which was made worse because of dealing with his family. Ted asked his family to draw a red line under the postage stamp to identify any "urgent and important" letters they might send. When they used the red line to identify the letter in which they broke the news of his father’s suicide, Ted wrote back complaining that the message didn’t merit a red line.
Ted continued to drop deeper and deeper into seclusion until finally the world became familiar with him, not by his name, but by the tag which had been given to the destroyer of human life - the Unabomber.
When his brother David suspected that Ted could be the Unabomber, he wanted to make a trip to Montana to speak to Ted. He wrote him a letter and waited for his brother to reply. The letter read, "Do not come to see me. I never want to see you or any member of my family ever again."
What is it that causes folks to drop out of society and shun any possibility of friendship and fellowship with those around them? It is not just the eccentric hermits like Ted Kaczynski. The same scenario was lived out by such notables as Howard Hughes who was an American manufacturer, aviator, and motion picture producer. Howard Hughes was a multimillionaire who lived the last years of his life in seclusion outside the United States. Could it have been the numerous betrayals by friends, the fact that he was a busy man, or lack of willingness to develop strong relationships? I don’t know, but I do know that he died all alone.
Jay Paul Getty was another person who did well in life, but ended up living isolated and alone. Authorities say that after J. Paul’s son was kidnapped and held for an unbelievable ransom, he changed and was never the same again.
What causes folks to drop out? The reasons are as many as the grains of sand on the sea shore I’m sure. I can think of several reasons why people shun friendship. We get tired of being let down by those we are supposed to be able to trust. We don’t want to risk losing someone we love. We are just too busy for the time demanded in order to have real friends. If we truly reveal ourselves to a friend, they might reject us. It is too hard to maintain meaningful relationships. The list goes on and on. I know these excuses so well because I have used each of them many times. I have come to tell you today that none of these excuses will hold water.