February 1, 2011
A friend of mine wrote the other day to tell me of an illness he was dealing with. We have known each other for over 50 years and our parents had been friends before we were born. My life has been enriched by his friendship and I can remember several times when his wisdom and thoughtfulness has had a qualitative impact on actions I have taken.
I am sure you all have had similar experiences and I invite you to think about them this morning. With my own sensitivity to the topic heightened, it seems recently that every time I turn I have been touched by comments and insights about friendship. Weather and cold has given all of us a bit of time inside and as a result I have watched more than my share of new and old movies. In Kevin Costner’s film Wyatt Earp (1994) the occasion of his meeting with the legendary dandy, gambler and alcoholic, Doc Holiday is framed by Holiday asking Earp, “Do you have any friends?” and Earp responds, “Not many.” Holiday tells him he will be his friend and a thread in this dark retelling of a legend is that whatever else he may be, Holiday, is a friend to Earp.
But over the holiday break we also go to movies and see a few films before they go to Netflix. One of the films we saw was The King’s Speech a tale I had never heard about the travails of George VI dealing with his stammer. The threads are many: the relationship of fathers and sons, the burdens of leadership, the love of family, the developing friendship between Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) and the King (Colin Firth).
“What do I call you?” asks Logue? “Your Highness, “ says the King, “then Sir.” “What about Bertie?” asks Logue. “Only my family uses Bertie”, says the King. “Bertie it is then” ,says Logue. His notion is that for the treatment to be effective they need to be equals working on the same problem. The treatment is effective, friendship grows despite travail and the power of relationships is clearly depicted. It is an inspirational tale in the time of The Social Network.
The Social Network is, as many of you know, about the founding of Facebook. It may well make you think twice about friending anyone. Both The King’s Speech and The Social Network are nominees for the best film of the year. As a tale of how to make money, as a story about randy escapades up the street, the film succeeds brilliantly. But would you want to be friends with any of the main characters? We probably all know folk like the characters in the film. My favorite scene is when Mark Zukerberg learns he is being sued by his friends.
The take away from the tale is that friendship is fragile and costly and finally that it can be bought if you have enough money. But in fact it is clear that such friends do not have your back nor your best interests in mind. It is a cautionary, if entertaining tale.
Emily Dickenson wrote: "True friendship multiplies the good in life and divides its evils. Strive to have friends, for life without friends is like life on a desert island….to find one real friend in a lifetime is good fortune; to keep him is a blessing."
It will not surprise you that I find Dickenson compelling. My best friends are folks with whom I can begin conversations in mid-sentence where we left off the last time we visited. Life it seems to me is made whole by good friends who both watch our backs and enrich our futures. Good friends tell you what you do not want to hear and what you need to know. May you be blessed with such friends.
by J. Barrie Shepherd from Diary of Daily Prayer
Friends were with me today, Lord,
people I love,
and who love me,
people I trust,
and who trust me,
people I enjoy being with,
no matter where, or how, or why.
Friends were with me today.
I thank you for my friends
and for all they bring to my living.
For the way they give of themselves to me,
for the way they help me give of myself,
and even be myself, and more than myself,
I give you my deepest thanks, Father.
I thank you, Lord, for the simple
but real kinds of support,
and comfort, and strength I can draw
from my friends.
But most of all I thank you
for the ways in which you reveal yourself
to me through friendship,
for all of the moments in which,
through frail but wonderful human instruments,
you sing to me of grace and mercy,
of the risk of commitment
and the challenge of response,
of the strong, sure knowledge of acceptance
in the heart of a true friend,
in the heart of a true father,
in your heart, my God and my Redeemer.
Grant me now a restful night,
that grace to rise refreshed tomorrow,
and the faith to be a friend to all I meet.
Robert M. Randolph
Chaplain to the Institute
at Tuesdays in the Chapel