Probably the most bitter disagreement I ever had with my best friend Leslie Frye was over the saying, “You can either be right or you can be happy.” His sage, sardonic advice served as a not-so-gentle rebuke to my axiom of “being right is the highest form of happiness.” You see, friends have (it may not surprise you to know) seen fit to nickname me once-upon-a-time as “Mr. Right. Mr. Always Right.” So yes, I know the drive to be right is an issue for me—to the point that I even added, “I promise [deep breath] to let go of the need to be right” to my wedding vows.
This best friend and I argued often and tenaciously over whether letting go of being right really leads to happiness—probably because, truth be told, we both needed to live into it.
But even after all these years struggling against this maxim, I still find the need to push back against my best friend and this annoying saying he is so fond of.
And here’s why: whether he will acknowledge it or not, he is the one that makes being right and being happy simultaneously a thing!
You see, our brother Frye’s sense of being right comes from his sense of doing right. This lifestyle, it is apparent, is what generates his happiness.
In addition to the happiness his radiant daughters bring him, Leslie’s walk in the world and his extension of friendship and goodwill is marked by hospitality, generosity, and servant leadership. These spiritual languages he speaks—and embodies—with fluency and grace characterize who he is in the world.
Countless times, he’s opened his home and patio, prepared meals, personal thrift-shopped, and encouraged. Loyal as the day is long, he is beyond generous with his support, his humor (can anyone tell a story better?!), his love of a good song. He volunteers, he shows up, he does not tire of doing right.
Miguel and I have experienced and witnessed firsthand all of these traits in various combination and with gratitude. We will not ever forget how his “doing right” has impacted us in some significant ways.
Just a few days before Christmas 2012, following my mother’s funeral and the two days afterward we and Pam spent packing up her home, Miguel and I returned to Dallas physically and emotionally exhausted. Because Mother had been in the hospital and rehab since early November, we had only managed to unload my “Christmas closet” into the living room, place a few lights on the patio, and put together one tree, bereft of its customary holiday finery.
Bone and soul weary, we opened the door to our apartment late that evening to no small Christmas miracle. The entire apartment had been transformed into a holiday spectacle, bursting with the gayest yuletide I had ever seen. Trees in two of the rooms, garland and lights decked the halls, and food in the kitchen comforted us in this most acute time of grief. Leslie and his ‘elves’ Mark and Raul were nowhere in sight. They didn’t need to witness their acts of hospitality and generosity to receive happiness from this gesture of sympathy and love.
And that is one of the first of many times Leslie has “done right” by us.
Compassion: When Miguel’s animal companion of 17 years, Jammer, was reaching his last moments of life, he (and again our friends Mark and Raul) rushed Jammer to the vet and stayed with him until Miguel landed at DFW and raced to the office to hold him and tell him goodbye. When Miguel left the exam room, there they out there waiting for him, went home with him, and made sure he had food and was ok for the next several days.
Unselfishness: Sitting in our living room back in early 2015, he listened fully to my emerging desire to enroll in seminary and leave home for a few years. In the process, he gently pushed back, played devil’s advocate, expressed some concerns—as any best friend should. In the end, he pushed aside any selfishness associated with me leaving (which I think was tendered with a prophetic realization that this was the beginning of us leaving home altogether someday) and supported me fully in my life’s calling.
Joy: Leslie’s performance of Luther Vandross’ Amazing Love at our wedding was another unforgettable moment in our lives, another in a long line of gestures that affirmed his confidence in the life we were building. (He would reveal at one point he wasn’t always sure about me dating his dear friend Miguel…). In particular, I remember a Valentine’s dinner a few years ago–complete with strawberry shortcakes on heart-shaped sponge cake–he prepared for Miguel and me to enjoy at home. It has always seemed to us that he finds happiness in seeing us happy, adding to our joy through random acts of kindness and joy.
There are more Facebook photos tagged with us and Leslie than probably anyone else. Leslie has been a part of practically every one of our holidays, birthdays, heartaches, and joys—including traveling to“Berk-uh-lee” with the framily and designing an unforgettable commemorative t-shirt for the occasion. And every celebration has been accompanied in some way or the other by a combination of flowers, perfectly chosen gifts, smart-ass quips, and of course glitter.
We will always remember Sunday nights with takeout or whatever we all put together from our fridges and Orange is the New Black or Grace and Frankie or some awful gay movie on Netflix. The “birthday rally” he and Miguel planned for my birthday. Countless poolside dinner parties. No-Tie Dinners. Hours spent thrift-store shopping and listening to each other. Working through the challenges life brought. Struggling through difficult issues. Showing up, again and again and again.
All that said, Leslie’s lifestyle of “doing right” extends far beyond us. His brand of servant leadership (thank you Journey #10) is a gift to our church and the community at large. He has worked tirelessly to not only help Black Tie Dinner raise and dispense over a half-million dollars to DFW-area justice-oriented organizations but chaired the recent No-Tie Dinner that resulted in a quarter-million dollar cash infusion to AIDS Services of Dallas. Presently, he is the lead cheerleader, networker, and heart behind Dallas Hope Charities’ mission to provide housing for homeless queer youth in Dallas. He has shown up at rallies and protests and brought his influence and awareness to the causes of the marginalized and those who are in need of happiness themselves.
Undoubtedly, these and countless other instances of doing right is what brings Leslie the most happiness in life. Yes, he loves the thrill of scoring a retail bargain, a well-appointed home, closet, and the just-right combination of pocket square and lapel pin. But I am confident he derives the most happiness from doing right by his friends and those who need an ally.
And it is that attitude that characterizes our best friend Leslie Frye. Whether heard in the richness of his voice, the generosity of his time, talent, and treasure, or the sureness of his presence, Leslie Frye is the epitome of both “right” and “happy.”
Not that I’m trying to be right or anything.