I went to a very small high school. There were only 50 students in my graduating class. I knew everyone and everyone knew me. Even though there were 50 of us, we were more than classmates. We were friends, at least on the surface.
During my lunch breaks of high school, however, I went to sit with my real friends. There, on the same concrete benches everyday, I joined with a smaller group made up of band geeks, drama nerds, teacher’s pets, and journalism brainiacs. We were more than friendly acquaintances. We had been to each other’s homes. We had eaten with each other’s families. We shared an identity. We were on the same team. We were all friends.
However, my best friend in high school was Steven. We did everything together. From band trips to drama club plays to church youth activities, we were there together. We shared our hurts, fears, hopes, and dreams with each other. Even after graduation, we stayed in touch. When he was married in Arizona, I sang in his wedding. When I was married in Arkansas, he served as an usher. When he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease in his twenties, he called me. When my wife and I lost a baby to miscarriage in my thirties, I called him. When he became the pastor of a church, I did a music and drama presentation for his congregation. When Katrina struck New Orleans, he brought water and relief supplies to mine. Today, we still visit, text and call each other from time to time. Steven is my real friend.
Being real friends with someone is a lot of work. It means being honest and open with them when you would rather be shallow and superficial. It means being sincerely happy about the good things that happen to them even when you wish it would have happened to you. It means making an effort to spend time with them even when the pressures of life and work make it extremely difficult. It means getting up in the middle of the night or leaving in the middle of a meeting when they call. It means sharing and celebrating the joys of life together. It means experiencing and mourning the disasters of life together. That’s what it means to be real friends.
How many real friends do you have?