I must admit in the earliest years of my life I didn’t have or need many friends. When you grow up in a large family, your brothers and your sisters fill any need you have for friendship.
By the time I started school, William Denney and Hugh E. Green Jr. had become my best friends outside of my family. That remained the case throughout my high school days, although Hugh attended Castle Heights Military Academy. I kind of lost touch with William after he moved away, but Hugh and I still get together on a pretty regular basis.
College brought me in touch with a whole new set of friends, but I never really became close friends with many of them. I still relied on my brothers for close friendship. Fortunately, my brothers, my sister and I have remained tight through the years.
In the course of my professional career, I have had the amazingly good fortune to develop friendships with four fine men. It is almost like God said, “you are going to need these guys, so I am blessing you with their friendship.”
I was introduced to the first two men who would become my friends right out of college. When I took my first full-time job, there they were. Both were about 15 years my senior, and both had established families and enjoyed solid marriages. At the time, I didn’t realize how much I needed their steady counsel and Christian example.
They have been like rocks for me for more than 40 years. We stayed in touch throughout the years; we celebrated Christmases together and generally kept up with each other’s family members.
For me, they provided a window on the world for what may be coming next down the road of my life. They were always quick to share their experience with me. You might say they were my special appointed guides.
And their lives were not without challenges and heartaches. One man has a
special needs son to whom he gives credit for making our spiritual life. He has seen his other son through business failure and salvage a rocky marriage.
A few years back, I assisted in conducting at his wife’s funeral.
My other friend – well, he had his troubles, too. Last spring, I delivered the eulogy at his funeral. His passing has left a hole in my soul.
I met my third friend about 15 years ago. He, too, is about 15 years older than me. We are both country boys. He grew up in Midland, Texas. Our mamas had a lot in common. As he would say, “We took a likin’” to each other from the start. At the time we met, each of us had three sons.
Before we met, he was the victim of what we call today corporate downsizing.
That didn’t slow him down. And through the years, he has had his share of health issues. That hasn’t slowed him down, either. And a few years back, one of his boys died in a car wreck.
My friend has borne his great loss with such grace. He is the youngest man his age I know. We get together often, for many reasons; one of which is because he makes me feel younger.
Amazingly, my fourth friend is, you guessed it, about 15 years my senior. He is the businessman, visionary, mover and shaker. Well-connected politically, he rubs shoulders with powerful people. He’s at the top of his game, the best in his field, yet he remains compassionate and empathetic. He is one of those rare, generous-spirited people, almost bigger than life. I have often wondered why he took an interest in me when I was a fledgling.
Again, it was almost like God said, “You need to see this man, up close” – another blessing of friendship.
Of course, I have other friends. But these four men kind of came out of nowhere. I didn’t pick them, and they didn’t pick me. I am quite certain they were chosen for me. Strange, this life – filled with wonderful surprises.
I have often heard it said, “Take care of your friends, and they will take care of you.”
A famous singer once sang, “I’ll get by with a little help from our friends.”
And from the writer of Proverbs, “A man that hath friends must show himself friendly, and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”
Now that’s a friend.
Jack McCall is an author and also writes a weekly column for The Democrat.