First don't get me wrong. I have nothing against Facebook. It is a wonder to me and I am so pleased that people have learned to use it to find old friends and make new ones. To keep in touch and to collect buddies like charms on a bracelet. But when push comes to shove there is nothing like a face to face friend. I don't think anyone would disagree. So today after meeting with friends who are colleagues and getting hugs and telling tales out of school and connecting through the eyes and heart I would like to speak on the subject of friends and what they mean to all of us in our stories. Lots of e blasts come out about the power of friends - and please, they ask, send these on to ten friends and something wonderful will come in the mail or through an open window to you. Okay. That's nice. But I'm writing about those friends who are there for a hug, to cover your back to give you a shoulder to cry on or lean on or just to listen, to laugh, to dream and scheme along side. There are friends that help you with your crossword puzzle and friends that may disappear for a while but will come back - stronger or different but back. Friends are family we choose and they are priceless in our story.
One of my favorite Jewish tales is the story of two friends who went to cheder (school) together. They were so close that they would quite literally save the other's live by giving their own. It happened that one of them was wrongly accused of a crime and sentenced to die. He asked if he could go home to say goodbye to his family and was denied. As the hanging was about to proceed his friend watching tearfully from nearby came quickly and offered himself in his friend's place until he returned from saying goodbye to his family and getting his things in order. The King was incredulous and asked him if he was 'crazy?' "What makes you think he will return and take his place and you will be put to death in his stead?" The King was told that his friend was an honest man innocent of this crime and he was sure he would come back as he loved him as surely as he was loved in return. Astonished by the generosity of the gesture and willing to prove to the other that he was indeed wrong he allowed the convicted man to leave for 24 hours and if he did not return his friend would be put to death. As the time passed neither the King or the stand in lost their faith that they would be proven right. As the 24th hour approached the King summoned the hangman to get ready and as he was about to pull the rope the convicted man appeared to take his wrongful punishment.
The two men embraced and the King was astonished. So astonished was he that he reviewed the case and freed the prisoner. "Your friendship and faith in each other are lessons for all of us. Taking a long look at his own quick decision served the King well in his future judgements. I do not need to tell you the outcome of the story for two such friends.
This is of course an extreme case and I'm relatively sure that most of us haven't been near hangmen lately so let's take this one into our own experiences. Friends leave an impression on us in many ways. Think of what a difference some of yours have made in your narrative and maybe give one, if you can, a call. And if one or more of those have gone to a place that you can't call spend some time thinking of them and smile at the memories. Friends are people we choose or who choose us. It is a gift and even sometimes hard work to keep at it. But it is a gift well given and returned. And if I remember my Girl Scout days well enough here's one of those oldie but goodie songs.
Make new friends but keep the old,
one is silver but the other is gold!
Here's to making new friends and introducing them to our old (duration not age) ones.
marilyn, panim el panim!