You’ve Got a Friend
Chris McDonnell CT May 28th 2021
In a song made famous by the singer James Taylor, Carole King wrote of friendship. The opening verse says it all:
When you’re down and troubled
And you need some lovin’ care
And nothin’, nothin’ is goin’ right
Close your eyes and think of me
And soon I will be there
To brighten up even your darkest night
You just call out my name
And you know, wherever I am
I’ll come runnin’
To see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there
You’ve got a friend
The months of lockdown have been a good time to explore the essence of our friendships, for just how strong are our relationships one with another?
It is often said that, in times of trouble, you find out who your true friends are. We all have many acquaintances, the passing relationships of our frequent email exchanges, where in a few casual words we trade views. Sometimes, it is with correspondents we have never met other than as a recognized name in our inbox. Gradually, over a period of time, trust and acceptance is built up and a personal understanding develops, to the extent that a friendship is formed. There are those you know you can depend on to reply.
In our lifetime we make few lasting friendships, relationships that have real depth and understanding. We meet many people though our years in school, in further education and in our place of work. Our social contacts through clubs and societies offer another strata of experience. But real friendship has a depth of sharing that is not found in casual contact but comes from living together over an extended period of time.
That is where the boundary of friendship and love hovers uncertainly, where friendship leads to a commitment from two people to share their lives in a particular way that is recognized by those around them.
A friend listens but doesn’t make judgment, offers the opportunity for you to work through the stress and complexity of the given moment in a place of safety, trust and understanding. Often we can reach a solution by the very act of speaking, sharing with one another helps us find our way through the complex maze that surrounds us, one step at a time.
We build friendships through shared activity, occasions of sharing that strengthen confidence. Such trust begins in small ways. It stands the test of time and circumstance and becomes valued till you can honestly say ‘You’ve got a friend’.
Because of the strength of such a bond, it is all the more painful when friends let us down. Sometimes, those in whom we placed our trust are found wanting in time of need. Then comes the difficult work of rebuilding, of making fresh again that which has been damaged, a time of forgiveness for perceived wrong. That has to be done face to face without the interference of technology for it is about the nature of relationships. Text messages, email and phone calls don’t have the emotional capacity to handle such a delicate task of repair.
Those who gathered round Jesus, trusted friends, came to betray him when the chips were down. Peter, challenged during the trial of Jesus by servants, denied knowing the man on three occasions before hearing the crowing of the dawn cockerel. Later, on the shores of the lake he was forgiven and a friendship was repaired over sharing of a breakfast meal.
That sign of friendship, of eating together, has been missing during the virus lockdown. Offering a meal to friends in our homes or going out for a meal together has not been possible. Somehow, the exchange of chat over the phone has not been an adequate option. But it has been something, a reaching out, a time of listening. The open door of our friend’s home will return and we will welcome each other once again with a handshake, a hug and a gentle kiss of greeting.
During recent weeks, conflict between peoples has once again dominated the news as discord between Israel and the Palestinians has led to a significant loss of life and the destruction of buildings. It seems to be a never ending story, repeated time and again, a spectator sport for many nations incapable of finding a resolution. It is no good telling the combatants to stop fighting without addressing the root cause of their argument. For nearly seventy years this small patch of land in the eastern Mediterranean has been a centre of failure, where raised hopes have been dashed as occasions of friendship offered have crumbled into dust before they had a chance to succeed.
Friends make sacrifices for each other, giving up possessions and liberty for the good of each other. We are told that to lay down our lives for the benefit of others is the ultimate sign of friendship.
As is so often the case in time of war, civilians, men women and children, suffer the consequences of indiscriminate military activity as the piles of shattered buildings continues to grow and lives are lost. I wrote these few lines in mid-May.
West Bank Story
Our sacred home is gone, just jagged
holed walls linked by broken stone
burnt-out rooms where our families lived
shared food, slept, made love
shed tears and the joy of laughter
till anger pierced the night.
Running crowds amid tear-gas shells,
counter rockets and billowing orange flames,
open conflict, ravaged, tortured piles
tolerance is lost in the smoke-filled dark.
The never-ending West Bank story
where friendship is held in the stained hollow
of each open hand and anguish strains
the worn features of pain-soaked eyes.
Christ-caught, the cost of desperate lives
faced by walls and threat of loss
where the city stand-off, day by day
is the continued price of his wooden cross
There is an African saying that it takes a village to educate the child. Taking care of each other is a collective responsibility; it depends on friendship, one with another. That is the essence of the Liverpool Kop anthem, ‘You’ll never walk alone’. Being together offers confidence, whatever happens. It even encourages goalkeepers to score with a well-placed head in extra time.