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Monday, November 15, 2010

Friends

WEEK 20

In the 1980's there was a popular television series, called the lone ranger. The series was about a character that went about helping people by protecting them from criminals. The lone ranger spent most of his time moving from one town to another protecting the weak and enforcing the law. One thing about the lone ranger was that he didn't have friends nor family. He spent most of his time alone with his horse. The lone ranger was more appealing as a character on the television series but in the real world he would have struggled as a person, because truly speaking it is difficult to go through life as a loner. This is evident in the story below.

Two men were walking through the desert to their camp on the other side. It was very hot and the heat was taking its toll on them. Their water supply was drying up with each kilometer and after walking for some time on the searing heat of the desert, one of the men, John started slowing down. His companion, Dave, who was in a hurry didn't even bother to wait for him. What was in his mind was to reach the camp before sunset. He quickly streaked ahead and left John behind. Far ahead he saw another man writhing in pain with a swollen ankle, and instead of stopping and helping the injured man, he opted to continue with his journey. His companion who was left behind came and even though he was tired, stopped and offered help to the injured stranger by carrying him on his back. The injured man was grateful and he took out a bottle of water from his bag and gladly shared it with his rescuer though unaware that John had run out of water. The two continued with their journey at a tortoise pace, busy sharing jokes and encouraging each other. Along the way, they saw something that looked like a human being lying on the sand. They continued walking and when they got there, they found that it was Dave, who had earlier left them behind and had even refused to help the injured man. Upon close scrutiny, they discovered that he had died from thirst. His death was as a result of his selfishness and reluctance to help others. The moral of the story is that you can't go through the marathon of life as a lone ranger. Learn from the wise words found in an African proverb, which says, if you want to go fast go alone and if you want to go far go with others. Life is more bearable when we walk with others. We all need people in our lives.

Every one of us needs friends in order to live meaningfully in the journey called life. Friends have an important role to play in our lives. We need friends that we can share ideas and advices with; friends, who can comfort us when we are hurting, rejoice with us when we are happy and confront us when we are wrong. Because friends are to human beings, what water is to a fish. As part of our humanity, we are born as social beings. That is why when a prisoner misbehaves in prison, he is usually placed in solitary confinement as a means of punishment. The prison authorities understand the importance of social interaction. They know the effects of social deprivation and how it could be utilized to straighten a troublesome inmate. During the Apartheid era, the political prisoners were placed in solitary confinement as a way of weakening their spirit and to silence their voices. Most of the people who have spent their lives as recluses have been found many a time to be abnormal. It is essential for everybody to have friends in their lives.

But what is important is to know that not everybody can be a friend. You can't be friends with people who mislead you by encouraging you to get involved in illegal activities that would put your life in danger. You can't be friends with those who expose your nakedness, by turning your struggles into biscuits that they happily go around sharing with others over a cup of tea. You don't need friends who are in competition by trying at every given moment to outperform you in the race of life. You don't need friends who are merely interested in you when everything is going fine and immediately when problems come knocking in your life; they quickly disappear like snow when the sun starts appearing.

What we really need are friends who will see value in us by giving encouragement when we are down, correct us when we are wrong, congratulate us when we have done something great, wipe our tears when we are crying, and defend us when we are attacked. What we really need are friends who will be honest with us even if it means hurting us in the process of correcting and building us; friends who will be there, when it is sunny, cold, raining and dark in our life.

Throughout my life, I have met a lot of people, but there was this one person who really stood out. This was one of my great friends that I unfortunately lost because I didn't really acknowledge and treasure our friendship. I remember the time I got sick during the festive season and ended up in Kalafong hospital. True to our friendship, my friend kept vigil at my hospital bed. He sacrificed his personal joy just to be with me during the hour of need. And after my release from hospital he kept visiting while I was convalescing at home. When I got back to my feet, some of my so called friends, who were nowhere to be found during my ordeal started showing up. And immediately I got caught up in my newly acquired attention, that I started neglecting my friend. This went on for some time until my friend disappeared unnoticed from my life. And as one English proverb rightfully puts it,” we never know the worth of water until the well is dry.” It was only later in my life when I was a little bit wiser that I realized that I had lost a great friend. This unfortunate experience became a lesson that taught me to treasure and appreciate my friends. Because real friends are as scarce as precious stones and reliable like crutches you can use to steady yourself during your season of limping.

We need friends like what the two soldiers, who were also friends, were to each other during the Second World War. After eight months of joining the army, the two friends were shipped to the battle field. When they arrived, they were greeted with hostile gun fire from the enemy. For the following days, they survived by crawling during the day and tiptoeing at night. The battle became intense as they were advancing towards the enemy camp and they came under heavy artillery. One of the two friends was badly injured and it was just a matter of time before he died. The Captain who was leading the group realized that they were in harm's way. He could not figure out the position of the enemy, who was shooting at them. So, he instructed his men to retreat. The soldier who was badly injured was left in front of enemy battle lines. There was no way he could be rescued without compromising the lives of the other soldiers. His friend refused to retreat with the other soldiers when he heard the command from their captain; he started crawling to his bleeding friend, much to the chagrin of his captain. His rescue attempt was too risky especially with bullets whistling above his head.

But his mind was made up; there was nothing that was going to stop him, not even the bullets from the machine guns nor the shouting of his captain behind him. He continued crawling until he reached his bleeding friend. The badly injured soldier smiled when he saw his friend and he said to him, “I knew you would come back for me”. After that he gasped his last breath and died. And even though the soldier who took a risk could not save his friend’s life, what he did was to show his commitment to their friendship by turning back to be with him in the last seconds of his life. He showed his friend and everybody who was watching what real friendship meant.

We need friends like that, friends who will always be there for us; friends who will influence us to live positively in a world dominated by negativity. Because real friends are more valuable than diamonds, more expensive than gold, priceless like water and they are as important as oxygen is to our lives. I would like to end by quoting the following words once spoken by boxing great, Muhammad Ali, “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.”

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