Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

July 18, 2004


Friendship is one of the secrets of healthy living


      Friends are so important. Healthy living would be quite impossible without good friends. Our world is not “user friendly” to hermits.

          In a town I once lived in, two men who were brothers lived in a dilapidated old house. The story was that they had no friends and did not want any. When a neighbor told me they were sick one winter, I went to see them.

          One appeared when I knocked on the door. He did not seem happy to see me. I said, “I understand you and your brother have been sick. I brought you some vegetable soup and cornbread.”

          I was surprised when he said, “Come on in; my brother is in the kitchen.” To my amazement, debris covered the hallway. The path through trash was hardly a foot wide. Empty cans, bottles, boxes, and paper seemed a foot deep right on into the kitchen.

          I put the soup and cornbread on the dirty kitchen table and asked how they were feeling. “We are better,” they said, “just a bad cold or maybe the flu.” They did not seem impressed with my gift of soup and cornbread. Feeling uncomfortable, I soon excused myself, but not before asking them to call me if I could help in any way.”

          I never heard from them again. I have thought about those men many times, wondering what I might have done to win their friendship. Apparently, long before I met them, they had decided they did not need other people in their lives.

          Most of us do. There is a great truth in the words of a popular song, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” Oh, how true I have found that to be in my own life.

          In my study is a little plaque my wife gave me for an anniversary years ago. It did not cost much, but to me it is priceless. On it are two rabbits embracing. Beside them are the words, “We Need Each Other.” It meant so much for my wife to say with her simple gift, “I need you.”

          Sometimes, when we are angry or depressed, we retreat into a shell of indifference, pretending we do not need other people. In so doing, we hurt ourselves more than others, allowing our apathy to suppress our love. This goes against the grain of our nature, for we were made for love. When we refuse to love, we are resisting the very purpose for which we were created.

          Loving others is impossible, of course, unless we are willing to forgive, and not once, but repeatedly. The fact that there are no perfect people makes forgiveness an absolute necessity in healthy living. Our family members, and our friends, will disappoint us, but we can forgive, and friendships can be renewed.

          During this journey called life, I have had many wonderful friends. As I reflect on this, two strong feelings emerge. One, I feel such deep gratitude that most of my friends have not given up on me. Two, I feel much anguish of soul for having failed to express to my friends what they have meant to me.

          One of my best friends was Billy Wren Parks. We roomed together at Auburn. He was the best man at our wedding. We stayed in touch over the years since college days. Billy became an engineer but more importantly, he became a good man.

          Billy died this week as the result of a pulmonary embolism. I had been thinking lately that I should tell him how much his friendship meant to me. Now, I cannot, at least until I get to heaven.

          Whatever heaven will be like, this much I know: there we will have the opportunity to tell our friends what we neglected to tell them down here. Until then, our regret will be bearable because we know that our friends will understand. Friends are like that. + + + +