OLD FRIENDS

old friends

Last week, while preparing dinner, I reached into the cupboard and brought out a small pink and white casserole dish.  Suddenly I thought of Cary Smith, the woman who had given it to me fifty-nine years ago.  In 1960, I had just graduated from Arizona State University and signed a contract to teach school in Anaheim, California.

Except for college, I had never lived away from home.  Now I would be living on my own for the first time.  Knowing this, the ladies in my church showered me with linens, dishes, and other kitchen essentials.  I am amazed that I am still using some of those cherished things.

None of this is earth-shaking, to be sure.  However, on the following Sunday morning, as I was leaving the sanctuary, I heard someone call out to me.  Turning I saw a familiar face from the past.

“Are you Faye Clark, this woman asked?”

“Yes, I am Faye Clark Reese, I said.

“Well, I knew it had to be you,” she replied.  “I am Betty Smith.”

Of course, she was.  The girl I had not seen, nor been in touch with, for close to thirty-five years—the girl with whom I had grown up—my casserole lady’s daughter. 

As we embraced, the years just seemed to melt away, and we were teenagers again.  What a warm and sweet encounter! 

On the way home I began to think about Old Friends, and I remembered a song Bill and Gloria Gaither used to sing.  “Old friends…what a find, what a priceless treasure…like a rare piece of gold…we are all millionaires in old friends.”

Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain.  It’s not something you learn in school, but if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you haven’t really learned much of anything.  

All those years ago, as a stranger and a new teacher in Anaheim, I was very much alone.  I hated the thought of walking into church by myself on Sunday morning, so I was late because I drug my feet.  A tall blond in the choir noticed my grand entrance.  When the choir exited the platform, she came to sit by me.  After service, her mother, the pastor’s wife, invited me home for lunch.  I was thrilled and just lonely enough to accept. 

There was an immediate connection with that family, as though we had always known each other, and Ophelia, the tall blond, and I have been friends for fifty-nine years because she took time for a “lonely gal.” We seldom see each other, but when we do, the love, the warmth, and the memories are still there as though we were never separated.  Old friends!

Winnie the Pooh said, “If ever there is a tomorrow when we are not together…there is something you must always remember…even if we’re apart…I’ll always be with you.”  That I believe is the essence of friendship.

It takes a long time to cultivate that kind of friendship.  It takes wanting to.  It takes energy and caring about the other person.  Such a friendship requires giving not taking.  

“If you go looking for a friend,” Martin Luther King said, “You will find they are very scarce.  If you go to be a friend, you will find them everywhere.” 

To have a friend, you must first be a friend.

My best friend is my brother.  I have always loved him as one loves any family member.  I’ve admired and looked up to him, and as a child, I tried to follow him around, but that didn’t work.  He was six years older than I.  He has been my spiritual hero and example in ministry, and he is my friend.  That’s the best part.

When Paul’s wife and daughter died within a year of each other, my heart was wrung with sorrow for him.  The only thing I knew to do was just be there.  So I called frequently.  Now we talk across the miles several times a week.  We share our woes and our joys, funny stories and recipes.  I love the stories about his early years in ministry.  

The fact that he is my brother makes the friendship dearer. 

I always apologize when I call to whine about difficulties with our sister, but he says, “If you can do what you are doing, I can listen to your whining.” That’s one of the hallmarks of a true friend—someone who will listen.

Someone has said, “The best time to make friends is before you need them,” and you will make more friends by being interested in other people rather than trying to get other people interested in you.

Friends are indispensable.  We all need them, but I must remind you that as close as friends can be, there is one who has promised an even more intimate and closer relationship.

Solomon, speaking of God, in Proverbs 18:24, tells us, “…there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother,” and—

Friends sometimes fail us, but Hebrews 13:5 assures us, “…He Himself has said. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Truly great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget.

“…WHAT A PRICELESS TREASURE!”

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!