A young man in rural Idaho was holding onto a secret. One weekend, something changed
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Time now for My Unsung Hero, our new series from the team at Hidden Brain. My Unsung Hero tells the stories of people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone. Today's story comes from Chewey Clinton. Chewey grew up on a ranch in Idaho. As a teenager, he lived a typical small-town existence, but he was holding on to a secret that weighed him down, a secret he felt was too big to tell anyone, even his best friend, Spencer. Then one weekend, his senior year of high school, something changed.
CHEWEY CLINTON: My parents were away, and it was the one and only time I ever had a party at my place, just tons of people, had a great time. And Spencer and I were hanging out and he was drinking and, you know, having problems with his girlfriend at the time. And he was just, like, frustrated and upset, and he wanted to go home. Well, I wouldn't let anybody go home in their cars that night who had done any drinking whatsoever. And then I was like, no, no, no. Let's just go walk around and talk. And we're walking and talking. And he was sort of unloading to me his frustrations with his relationship.
And there was just a lull in the conversation for a couple of miles. And it was nothing that I would ever expect. I hadn't planned to tell him, hadn't planned to say it even as we started walking because it was something I never thought I could say to anybody who I'd grown up with because it was really dangerous. It just - it broke in me, and I just said it. I said, Spencer, I'm gay. And there was a momentary silence. Without anything else, he just put his arm around me as we were walking. And he said, that's OK. You're still my best friend, and I still love you.
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CLINTON: For somebody to tell me they loved me when I told them that was unlike anything I could have ever asked for. It was like a relief valve. It was like this constant weight that had been building on me suddenly lifted a little bit. For as long as our friendship went on, he just asked questions, and I never had anybody that I could tell things to. I could never have known what it would feel like to have that kind of friendship.
KELLY: Chewey Clinton of Washington, D.C. Chewey went off to college after high school graduation, and though their friendship faded, Chewey says he will always remember the compassion that Spencer showed him. You can find more stories from My Unsung Hero wherever you get your podcasts. And to share the story of your Unsung Hero, record a voice memo on your phone and email it to email@example.com. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.