“…that day began our life’s work of being friends.” Wendell Berry – Imagination in Place, page 112
Wendell Berry has always written well about friendship. You can see this in his novels about Port William and in his essays. In his essay titled “In Memory: James Baker Hall,” he writes so wonderfully about friendship in memory of a lifelong friend. It is no surprise, given his view of friendship, that it is so beautiful.
I have had the good grace of having some amazing friends over the years. Some have been with me for longer than others, but I have a number of them that have been around for a long time, and will be there for longer. The more people I meet the more I know I am blessed with amazing friends. That is one reason this essay of Berry's resonates with me. As one who has good friends, I can recognize when someone else has them as well. Mr. Berry has good friends and I’m sure he is a good friend.
Friendships are forged over time and they, like anything else, have to stand the test of time to see their true colors. When disagreements or life change happens these times are where relationships are given depth or distance. It’s not always bad to move on from friends, but it a loss and you know longer reap the benefit from their love and affection. However, there are those rare friends that stick around through everything. When life happens and people shift, they put in the work of friendship and stick by through everything, and you do the same for them.
I can think of many friends that I can tell a funny or serious story about how we met or the early days of our friendship that could end with “…that day began our life’s work of being friends.”
I remember the first day I moved to Monroe as a 5 year old, I went to Sunday school and in that moment I found two friends who are still here 36 years later.
Or my first day of Kindergarten orientation meeting a kid named Scott who has been a constant in my life for 36 years also.
I remember taking a history class and getting partnered up with someone who has put up with me for over 25 years now and is one of my most trusted friends.
Or my good friend who soon after meeting him told me not to drink or chew tobacco in his house, that was the start of many beers and too many dips together as we’ve sharpened one another in life for the last 20 years.
Or seeing this amazingly beautiful women walk towards me and I dismissed the handshake and went straight for the hug, she has been my best friend for 11 years and my wife for 10.
Or a friend who has spoken into my life almost every time I’ve met with him, but it started with me dreaming that he was going to help people out of prison with his. We have been close for over 9 years now.
Or a guy my own age comes to serve as my intern and in turn becomes one of my closest friends for the last 7 years.
Or one of my closes confidants who for the last four years has served as a pastor to me, our relationship really started because God just drew us together, because He knew we’d need it.
There has been work and forgiveness and joy from my friends and myself, for us to remain friends over the years. I am grateful for these people and the immeasurable depth of grace they have been to me. May our life’s work of friendship continue for many more years to come.