“Johnny!” I heard someone call. I turned around to find an old friend of mine smiling widely. It is not that I was seeing him after a long time. I see him often and usually in church. I walked back to him and shook his hand, as usual. His wife joined him shortly.
“This is Johnny Philip. My friend. We studied together – a long time ago” [over 40 years ago, as a matter of fact], he held my arm in a firm grip and told his wife, with great pride.
“He talks of you very often”, she said, “but I just couldn’t connect the face to the name”.
Someone proud of me? In this day and age? I was thrilled.
A few seconds later, I saw another familiar face – again in church. I shook his hand and he smiled back at me.
“I am seeing you after many years, Robert, and am glad to see you”, I said.
“Happy to see you too”, he said, “It sure has been a long while”.
“I’m not sure if you remember me …” I continued, but he cut me short. “Of course, I remember you – from the time you were this high”, he said as he bent down to bring his palms below his knee level. Well that was more than 50 years ago, in another country!
“But you still look the same, and I don’t”, I said, and we laughed.
As I stepped out of church this chilly morning I accidently shoved another old-time friend off the side-walk and on to the parking lot. I apologized. He was my senior in college, [again, over 40 years ago!]
He pointed to another person on the sidewalk and asked me, “Do you know him?”
“No”, I shook my head – you know, the way we Indians do it. It’s an art, but that’s another story.
“My memory is beginning to fail”, he said. “I feel like I know him very well, but I just can’t remember who he is!”
Well, I couldn’t help him. But the sun was shining brightly and we continued talking and joking cheerfully until the icy winds encouraged us to bid farewell.
That reminds me: What am I most thankful for this year?
My friends – that’s who I am most thankful for, this year. Especially for those hundreds, regardless of their age, who have remained my friends for over 40 years. I am not leaving out the others, but the long-timers have a special place in my heart.
Thank you for having been my friend, sharing your time and other resources for, and with, me, for the experiences that we shared, and for all the fun times we had, still continue to have, and expect to have.
It doesn’t matter that we don’t agree on many things, and often favor different viewpoints. Ultimately, it is the journey that makes the destination worthwhile.
I thank God for my friends. You validate my existence.