I love old people, particularly the ones that tell great stories and like talking to everyone. I recently overheard an older man asking a guy in the bathroom about friends he had throughout life. As they were washing their hands he asked, "Hey, did you have a best buddy growing up?" The other man responded that he had several and inquired why he asked. "Well, I had something really interesting happen to me a couple years ago, and my wife and I were talking about how interesting it is that we pick certain people to attach to." I continued to eavesdrop as he elaborated.
"I had one best friend for eight and a half years, then he moved away. Never heard from him. We didn't have the technology we do today to stay in touch. A few years ago, though, I asked my daughter to try to help me find him. After doing some research, she found an old newspaper article where he was listed as teacher of the year in some small Tennessee town. I found an address and mailed a letter with a picture of us as boys. I told him to call me if it was him in the picture and to ignore it if not. The next day I got a phone call, and it was my friend. It was the first time I'd heard his voice since 1946. He told me he had shed tears thinking about our friendship over the years, and we made plans to meet. We visited several times, and one year later he died."
When he finished telling the story he asked one question, "So, why do you think we have such a strong connection with some people?"
The other man said he wasn't sure, and as my mind started racing to answer that for myself, my heart filled with gratitude. I thought about the amazing friends I've had the privilege of knowing and continuing to know over the years. I never want to take for granted the relationships that have spanned multiple stages of my life and extended well beyond what most would expect. I have friends like family, and there is an element of mystery to that. Why do we forge such close connections with certain people? I'm not sure I can adequately answer that question, but I think I do know what makes any relationship last: grace-filled, sacrificial, devotion to the well-being of the other.
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others," Paul made this concept clear in his letter to the Philippians.
At some point we consciously (or subconsciously) make the decision to look to others' needs first. The day we change our mindset to the sole pursuit of our own desires, we stop seeing the same people in our lives for any sustained period of time. Relationships become disposable, as we discard the ones that don't benefit us the most. The ones that do remain, even when both parties are acting selfishly, are typically miserable and carried on out of obligation.
Again, I am so thankful for the friends who have taught me this concept not just in word but in deed. I'm looking forward to us all being old people together, talking to random people in bathrooms about how we met way back in the early 2000's. I love you all very much.