I call this message that I bring today, ‘Building Bridges’. It is my way of describing what friendship is all about. You see, friendship to me is a connection between two (or more) individuals or groups. Friendship is at the heart of the Christian ethic. You see Christianity is built on love. Christ the rabbi, the teacher, taught it that way. And to show that he meant it, he gave us the ultimate example. He gave up his life for us, his friends, his brothers. “Love one another as I have loved you.” So, it follows that friendship is a bridge that allows us to spread our love to each other.
Peter says in his epistle, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace.”
Isn’t that interesting? “Show hospitality without grumbling.” Isn’t that automatic for us all? Well, no. Unfortunately, not.
The phone rings. Your spouse answers it. You can tell almost by the tone of his/her voice or inflections in speech who is on the line.
“Hi, love, how are you?” must be a family member or close friend.
I won’t go into detail how the tone may change if it’s anyone else, or to what degree, because that would get me into trouble.
Of course, I’m not an innocent myself. I offer a wide variety of tones running from, “Hey! How’s it going?” to “Sorry, I don’t speak French.”
Yes, sometimes friends can be a real test, not just them to us, but the other way around as well. Getting back to the phone, I make a conscious effort never to indicate to Sue that “I’m not home.” I want to be home for whoever calls or whatever happens.
You see, friendship is or, in my opinion, should be a fulltime occupation. We should always be prepared to accept whatever a friend throws our way.
Friendship is not a balanced equation. Jesus Christ regarded the apostles not only as acolytes, but as friends. I quote a bible scholar who says, “Jesus began calling His disciples friends rather than servants because He had entrusted them with everything He had heard from His Father (John 15:15). Jesus trusted the disciples to use the information for the good of His Father’s kingdom.”
English poet John Donne, writing in the 17th century, famously wrote that “no man is an island,” comparing people to countries, and arguing for the interconnectedness of all people with God. Donne’s “Meditation 17” is one of a series of essays he wrote when he was seriously ill in the winter of 1623, and has since been popularly remembered for this one excerpt.
In his meditation on death, Donne writes that all beings are one with God. The rest of the essay, when read in the context of Brexit, is just as poignant as the famous passage. Donne compares suffering to gold, arguing that we can never have enough of our neighbors’ pain: “No man hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by it.” In other words: No one suffers alone, and being aware of another’s pain only makes us stronger and more able to live.
“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls… it tolls for thee.”
In modern wording, it is up to us to step up to the plate. It is up to each of us to share our neighbour’s, our friends’, pain.
In my first year of college at Loyola of Montreal, I was jogging around the old familiar football field – the high school shared the same field, and I went to that high school also - when a guy my age waved at me. I waved back but didn’t know him. He came up to me and said shyly, “Hi, do you go to school here?” I said yes, and we spent a few minutes talking about the school. He said he was going to attend as a freshman next year. He seemed relieved that someone had agreed to spend some time chatting about it.
It was then that I learned a life lesson that I have never forgotten. And I remembered how good my mother was at the application of it. The lesson, to put it simply is this. If you want to have friends, you have to make friends. You have to put your foot forward even if you’re in a cow pasture full of dung. You have to reach out to get to that friend. You have to build bridges.
Song from the tv show ‘Friends’.
So no one told you life was gonna be this way
Your job's a joke, you're broke, your love life's D.O.A
It's like you're always stuck in second gear
When it hasn't been your day, your week, your month, or even your year , but
I'll be there for you
(When the rain starts to pour)
I'll be there for you
(Like I've been there before)
I'll be there for you.
Friendship Quotes –
The strong bond of friendship is not always a balanced equation; friendship is not always about giving and taking in equal shares. Instead, friendship is grounded in a feeling that you know exactly who will be there for you when you need something, no matter what or when.
- Simon Sinek
It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself.
- Jim Morrison.
I will add to this that total freedom to be yourself also presumes that if you screw up with a friend, you will have the gumption to unreservedly say, “I’m sorry.” Not always an easy thing to do, but extremely important.
A story of friendship in Yeli village, China.
I will relate the story by quoting one of the two friends directly from a video in which he spoke of their experiences.
“In 2000, I lost the sight of both eyes. My friend, Jla Wenqui, lost his arms in childhood. He’s been carrying me on his back across the river for 13 years. I am his hands. He is my eyes. We are best friends. Together, we planted these trees.”
(They stand together in the middle of the shallow river surrounded by trees of various ages. One wears a long-sleeved shirt cut short where his hands would be. The other stares into the camera with sightless eyes.)
“We have been planting trees since 2002. There are more than 10,000 of them. They are like green soldiers, guarding our beautiful village. It maybe hard financially, but we are so delighted spiritually. When we’re working together, we don’t feel disabled at all. We’re a team.
“In the past this was a wasteland, nothing but stones and sand. We planted all the trees for the environment, and for future generations. Planting trees has become an important mission of ours.”
Music the connection.
Another story of friendship is that of Alejandro Olmedo, a Spanish opera singer who emigrated to New York City. When he couldn’t find a job, he went out in the streets of Koreatown and sang opera for the passersby. One who heard him outside his restaurant was Tora Yi, a chef of Chinese cuisine and a fan of opera. He called Alejandro in and invited him to be the sidewalk manager for his restaurant, singing to his heart’s content. From this strange beginning, a long friendship blossomed.
Peter and I, best friends.
Before finding a refugee boat that would take us to America, we were boarded in a camp, a lager, in Bremer Haven, Germany. One day my mother brought a boy over from the cabin next door. She said he and his parents were also Hungarian and wouldn't I like a nice new friend. I had my doubts. He didn't look like much, hardly talked, giggled at everything I said. But just like me, he loved movies. Especially those strange new movies called animations that had talking ducks, mice and dogs in them. They were pretty silly, but also pretty magical.
Peter was a big, chubby kid with curly brown hair and round, cherubic features. He looked like a roly-poly true life version of one of our loveable cartoon characters. It took me some time to realize that behind his shy, quiet ways lurked a perceptive mind that didn't feel at all intimidated by some of my misconceptions. He may have followed me around like a trained bear, but he was never too shy to correct my mistakes. No, we weren't actually going to America. We were going to Canada. It was just above America, but colder. No, they didn't actually haul anyone away for not saluting the American flag when it was run up or down the flagpole twice a day. But soldiers would stop a person walking by and tell him to stand at attention. And, no, cowboys and Indians didn't still fight each other in America, or in Canada…drat the luck.
Peter and I went everywhere together. It was a relationship born of the refugee. But it lasted because of our mutual liking for many of the same things in our young lives. Movies, comics, stamp collecting, radio listening, sharing a good joke, and just being totally compatible. He was my Hardy. I was his Laurel. And often the friendship was as good as their artistic connection. And together we were never alone.
We were fast friends living in Montreal in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s until the shocking day when his wife told me he had suddenly died of a heart attack. He was the same age as I, 50 years old.
I will always miss Peter Polacsik, a true friend with whom we shared everything, as Christ intended.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
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