This past weekend I had a crazy wonderful experience. I spent real time with old friends.
I had the opportunity to go to San Antonio and be a part of a regional drum corps event. For those of you who don't know what that is, "drum corps" is professional marching band. For those purists out there, I know I just offended you, but hang with me anyway. Drum Corps is an activity unlike any other, but the closest thing I can compare it to is marching band. 120-150 young men and women from the ages of roughly 16-22 spend their summer competing against other groups all over the country. I've been a drum corps adjudicator off and on since 1993, so it was a great privilege to be a part of this event.
I arrived in San Antonio at 1pm last Saturday and met an old friend of mine from junior high school. We are now in our mid-40s. We had not spent real time together since the late 1970s, so this was a treat. We talked up until the time of the competition; we talked after the competition - it was as if nothing had changed. Our friendship was that solid, that connected. Brent is a lawyer, a musician, an educator and a friend who loves God.
After the competition - 11:30pm or so - we headed over to my favorite restaurant in the El Mercado - Mi Tierra - for a reunion of sorts with some other old 'acquaintances' of mine from my old drum corps: the Sky Ryders, from Hutchinson, Kansas. As we waited for our table, I didn't see any of them; which kind of unnerved me. But within minutes, I heard a voice: "Hey Jay!" I would've known that voice anywhere. I turned around and there she was, one of my dearest old friends - Kathleen. The girl who taught me to love oreo cookies; the only UT graduate I have ever been able to really tolerate and the only girl friend I have that is taller than me! Kat and I marched together in the Sky Ryders - she played mallets and I played baritone. We were one unlikely pair of bus partners! Although she grew up a cradle Catholic, Kat came to know and love the Lord after she got married. And there she was, still the radiant girl after all these years. So Alan (her husband), Brent, Kat and I occupied a table, eating chips, queso, salsa and other spanish hors d'oeuvres until 3 am! We laughed and talked and laughed again until we knew we were too old to be out that late. We said good bye in the bakery of Mi Tierra and Kat gave me one of those lingering hugs that tells you that nothing has really changed in your friendship. The next morning, after a heavy sleep, I woke up, packed up and said good bye to Brent. Gave him a big hug too. It was good. I will see him again in a few weeks.
This whole experience reminded me how important friends really are and how much they mean to me. The root meaning of the word "friend" means "to love." How true it is. I love my wife, my daughters and my family. Indeed, I have a covenant love with my wife; but as special as that is, I love my friends too. I need my friends. All of us need friends.
There have been times in my life where I didn't think I needed friends; or that it was better simply to "go it alone." I was wrong. I need my friends. In a real way, they make me who I am. Friends make the difficult times tolerable and the good times joyous. They make life worth celebrating. They help us to bear the burdens when we don't think we can go one step further. They love us, even when we feel ...unlovable... to ourselves.
I've been blessed with many friends, male and female, young and old. I rejoice in all of them. Each one is unique and uniquely blesses me. When I am in difficulties with one of them, it gives me great pain until the grievance can be resolved and forgiveness shared.
We need friends. You and I were created for just that purpose: to love one another. To make our friend list grow longer and our enemy list become nonexistent. Let me challenge you to do just that. Make a new friend today or tomorrow; patch up a relationship with an old friend in the same way. Whatever you do, don't let this day go by until you tell at least one of your friends how much they mean to you.
"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay his life down for his friends." John 15:13