By Henrylito D. Tacio
A couple of days ago, I received a private message from a friend. Actually, it was a forwarded message sent to her by another person. After reading it, I might as well share it with all my readers here, so you get a lesson or two from it:
Many years ago, Armand was sitting on a couch on a hot, humid day, having coffee during a conversation with my father. As they talked about life, the father thoughtfully cast a clear, sober look at his son.
“Never forget your friends,” the father advised. “They will become more important as you get older. Regardless of how much you love your family and the children you have, you will always need friends. Remember to go out with them occasionally. Do activities with them, get in touch with them…”
“What a strange advice,” Armand thought. “I am an adult and surely my wife and our family are everything I need to make sense of my life.”
Yet, Armand obeyed him, kept in touch with his friends, and annually increased their number. Over the years, he became aware that his father knew what he was talking about! In as much as time and nature carry out their designs and mysteries on a person, friends are the bulwarks of life.
Now, in his 60s, these are the things Armand learned about life and living:
Time passes. Life goes on. The distance increases. Children as well as grandchildren grow up and become independent, and although it breaks the parents’ hearts, they are often separated from them.
Jobs come and go. Illusions, desires, attractions, sex weaken. People do what they should not do. The parents die. Colleagues forget the favors. The races are over.
But true friends are always there, no matter how long or how many miles they are apart. A friend is never more distant than the reach of a need, reaching out to you, intervening in your favor, waiting for you with open arms or ears with blessings for your life.
The message ended with this statement: “When we started this adventure called LIFE, we did not know of the incredible joys or sorrows that were ahead. We did not know how much we would need from one another. Love your parents, take care of your children, but keep a group of good friends.”
When I was still in high school, I had the opportunity of knowing these friends for life: William (who now lives in Canada), Gerry (now living in Denmark), Ujean (a doctor who also settles in Canada), Abner (who still lives in our hometown, where I also live), Glocelyn (who real name is actually Lorna, but that’s a long story on how it happens), and Delia (now an American citizen living in the United States).
When I started working for a non-government, I came to know Monching and his brother Daniel, who later became my friends. At one time, two Americans came to our office for training. Unknowingly, both became my friends, too: Gregory (who now lives in California) and Brad (a journalist).
These days, I have several friends that to mention them one by one will not be enough to fill the recommended space for today’s column. Besides, if I enumerate them one by one, I may fail to mention others.
We need friends just as we need air, water, and food to sustain us through life. “The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Just like husband and wife, friends also fight; friction also arises. In some cases, there are misunderstandings. “Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing,” Octavia Butler says. “There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny. And a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it’s all over.”
Gillian Anderson has also said: “Well, it seems to me that the best relationships – the ones that last – are frequently the ones that are rooted in friendship. You know, one day you look at the person and you see something more than you did the night before. Like a switch has been flicked somewhere. And the person who was just a friend is… suddenly the only person you can ever imagine yourself with.”
With that, I am reminded of the anecdote that was featured in The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. It goes this way:
“I am looking for friends. What does that mean – tame?”
“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. “It means to establish ties.”
“To establish ties?”
“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need for you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world…”
And that, my friend, is what friendship is all about.
To end this piece, allow me to quote the words of Muhammad Ali, one of the world’s well-loved boxers: “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 really haven’t learned anything.”