True friendship

by Pastor Rick Mapperson

Grooming Your Pallbearers 

A man and his wife were out on a date. While they were sitting in the corner of the restaurant waiting for our food the husband took out his pen and started to mark lines on a paper napkin. When he was done, he had made an acceptable likeness of a casket. He slid it across the table. 

“How many people does it take to carry one of these?” She looked at him with whimsical eyes that said, “What is he up to now? But she gave the right answer. “Six.” 

He said, “Honey if I died tomorrow, who would you ask to carry my casket?” He had plenty of friends who he believed would be willing to help with this task, assuming there was nothing more pressing in their appointment book. But he realized he didn’t want those types of people carrying him to his grave.  

He wanted people who would drop whatever they were doing in order to carry him to his final resting place. He realized at that point he had some work to do in the area of committed friends. If he died today he realised there would be a shortfall of committed pallbearers. 

He went on to describe this experience and said “I realised this could sound morbid, but I decided I needed to start grooming my pallbearers.  

Certainly not because I planned on needing them anytime soon. But they represent the people who have been with you through the best and the worst of times. It was obvious to me that if I wanted to have rich friendships, I would have to be a loyal friend myself. 

We have a crisis of friendship in the 21st century. We have never been more connected, thanks to social media, but in many ways we have never been more disconnected.  

Covid has revealed much about the way we are living, especially in densely populated areas of Sydney. A recent study by Macquarie University found the following: 

The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened feelings of isolation among apartment dwellers, with more than one-third saying they know no one in their building well enough to have a conversation. 

Macquarie University researchers also found 57 per cent of people living in high-rise apartments had no neighbours they would ask a favour of or invite into their home. 

The research, which surveyed apartment dwellers in Macquarie Park, Chatswood, Epping, Bankstown and Parramatta, found 64 per cent of people would like to interact more with their neighbours. 

People over the age of 50 were more likely to speak to neighbours daily or weekly, while 61 per cent of people under 50 did not know anyone well enough to ask a favour. 

The survey led by Miriam Williams, lecturer in geography and planning at Macquarie University, also found renters were more likely not to talk to other residents. 

But she added: “Not everyone that was interviewed was interested in interacting more with their neighbours.” 

Dr Williams said parents with children living in apartments were more likely to be connected to their neighbours: “Children play a key role in facilitating interactions due to their presence in common spaces.” 

Apartment dwellers also said they interacted with neighbours less during the pandemic, despite spending more time at home because of lockdowns. 

How are you doing when it comes to friendship? 

We all want friends, we all need friends. So how do we get friends? 

It has often been said that “A man who has friends must himself be friendly”. And that is true. “If we are to have friends, we must first learn how to be a friend.” 

Traits of a true friend 

1. A true friend lifts you up when you are down. 

Its easy to be friends with others when life is good and they are fun to be around. What happens though when life is less than wonderful? We all want true friends in our lives who will love us, support us and encourage us when life is challenging, which it will inevitably be.  

A true friend supports you. A true friend will demonstrate their support by standing behind you and beside you.  

2. A true friend will bring out the best in us. 

A woman and her husband, the mayor of a large city, were walking along the street one day when a construction worker on a nearby scaffolding leaned over and shouted, “Hello, Peggy.” She turned to look and recognized him as being an old boyfriend from high school.  

She returned his greeting and they had a brief conversation before she and her husband continued their walk. 

The mayor chuckled and said to his wife, “See there, if you had married that fellow, you’d be the wife of a construction worker.” 

She looked at him and said, “No, dear, if I’d married him, he would be the mayor of this city.” 

Behind everyone who achieves anything of worth is a friend of great worth! 

3. A true friend will strengthen you! 

A British publication once offered a prize for the best definition of a friend. Among the thousands of answers received were the following:  

“One who multiplies joys, divides grief, and whose honesty is unbreakable.”  

“One who understands our silence.”  

“A volume of sympathy bound in cloth.”  

“A watch that beats true for all time and never runs down.”  

The winning definition read: “A friend is the one who comes in when the whole world has gone out.” 

Now of course we all would love to have those sort of friends. Friends like that can be a great resource in life. Friends who we can count on that will drop everything and come to our aid if we needed them, Friends who bring out the best in us and also can see the worst in us and still remain our friends in spite of the truth that we can have some less than desirable traits at times.  

Of course the key to attracting those types of friends is being like that ourselves. 

I read the story of a man who was disappointed to discover one day that his ride on lawnmower had broken down and he frustratingly spent hours  working fruitlessly to get it going.  

Suddenly his new neighbor appeared with a handful of tools. ‘Can I give you a hand?’ he asked. In 20 minutes he had the mower functioning beautifully. ‘Say, what do you make with such a fine set of tools?’ the man asked. He smiled and said, ‘Friends.’” 

A great way to make friends. Help them with what you can do. It doesn’t need to be having great mechanical skills. Just be observant and seeing what is happening on their world and helping as best you can is sufficient to start some great long term friendships.  

What can you use to strengthen and help those around you? 

We can strengthen others by praying for them. We can strengthen others by being there for them in their time of need. We can strengthen others by being real.  

C.S. Lewis said: 

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, “What! You, too? I thought I was the only one.” 

So we have learnt that a true friend will stand behind you and will support you and a true friend will stand beside you and will strengthen you! 

4. A true friend will stimulate you! 

While sitting in the club house, an old friend asked Bill why he no longer played golf with George. Bill said, “Would you play golf with a guy who’s always improving his ball position, occasionally slips a tee under his ball in the fairway, and regularly lies about his score?” The answer from the old friend was obvious, “Certainly not!” Bill said, “Well, neither will George.” 

We need to be the kind of friend who lifts others up, rather than dragging others down! People ought to be able to say that they are a better person because of our influence in their lives! 

5.  A true friend helps to make us better people.  

They do this by sticking with us.  

A girl gave her boyfriend her picture. On the back was this note: “Dearest love, I love you more everyday and I always will. I know you feel the same way about me. All my love forever and ever. PS – If we break up I want this picture back.” 

That’s not to commitment of a true friend. A true friend doesn’t abandon you when things get tough. They do not forsake you. 

You can tell a true friend by the fact that when you’ve made a complete fool of yourself, they don’t seem to believe that you’ve done a permanent job of it. They stand by you and stay with you, and help you move beyond your failure to see successes in life once again. 

True friends choose to have faith in you. 

Jackie Robinson was the first African American to play major league baseball. While breaking baseball’s “color barrier,” he faced jeering crowds in every stadium. While playing one day in his home stadium in Brooklyn, he committed an error. His own fans began to ridicule him. He stood at second base, humiliated, while the fans booed. 

Then shortstop “Pee Wee” Reese came over and stood next to him. He put his arm around Jackie Robinson and faced the crowd. The fans grew silent. Robinson later said that arm around his shoulder saved his career. 

Do you want to have true friendships in your life? 

Are you ready to take action to widen your circle of friends? 

Here is where to start. 

Be genuinely interested in others. 

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” – Dale Carnegie 

That means really listening to them. It means being hospitable. It means realising that people can be different from you and that doesn’t necessarily mean they are wrong, they are just different. 

Express appreciation to others. 

“Friendship is a priceless gift that cannot be bought or sold, 

But its value is far greater than a mountain made of gold. 

For gold is cold and lifeless, it can neither see not hear, 

And in the time of trouble it is powerless to cheer. 

It has no ears to listen, no heart to understand, 

It cannot bring you comfort or reach out a helping hand, 

So when you ask God for a gift, be thankful if He sends 

Not diamonds, pearls or riches, but the love of real true friends! 

– Helen Steiner Rice 

Let’s groom our pallbearers. Lets be people who love others. Lets be the kind of friends we want others to be. 

Let’s start it now.  

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