“You can go through life and make new friends every year – every month practically – but there was never any substitute for those friendships of childhood that survive into adult years. Those are the ones in which we are bound to one another with hoops of steel.”  –Alexander McCall Smith, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

Silhouettes of kids jumping from a sand cliff at the beachMy first memories of my home town find me walking up the sidewalk beside the hotel where we lived for a year. My mother, along with my older brother and sister lived in a two room suite of the hotel. Now, when I say suite, it was two rooms with a community bathroom at the end of the hall. Remember, this was the early 1950’s.  My uncle and grandmother had another two room suite on the same floor as ours.

The year we moved out, I began first grade. It was there I met Bill and Steve. I was the youngest in the class because my birthday was in December, but the school administration allowed me to attend. I was a large five year old!  About the time of fourth grade, more friends were added. But there were none like Bill and Steve. We did things together like riding our bicycles and playing sports and games like other ten year olds. By the time I arrived in seventh grade my friends list was pretty big. That’s when I started playing sports and met lots of other young guys who were like me.

By the time High School started,  Bill and Steve were included in an ongoing friendship with Terrell and Wayne and Jackie.  We were inseparable. By the time we reached our senior year, every club and sport was “controlled” by one or more of the six of us. However, my friendships weren’t limited to this handful of great guys. I can name another twenty or thirty guys from the class that I would have counted on, no matter what.

Then life happened. College, marriage, business, children, gains and losses.  The years rolled by. Class reunions seemed to scroll rapidly like setting an alarm clock on your cell phone. If memory serves me, I attended the 10th, 25th, 30th, 45th and 50th reunions. Most of the guys looked about the same. More weight, less hair… but still maintaining the knowledge of those formative years from ages 5-18. Those days we spent as philosophers and designers of our future. Swinging in the grammar school playground planning all of our tomorrows. And those of us who were at the reunion all remembered the same.

Most of them are still with us. Some have left. I performed Bill’s funeral a few years ago. It was hard to say goodby. Steve and Jackie and Wayne continue to stay in touch with me. We share a belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We didn’t know much about that as kids. But, again, life happened.  And you know what?  I believe I could pick up the phone today and call any one of them with a life-saving request and they would do their best to meet it. Though we have had extremely limited moments together for the last 60 years… we have never been apart in our hearts.  We were, and are, and will continue to be friends.  We are, as Alexander McCall Smith said, “…bound to one another with hoops of steel.”

Do you make space in your life for meaningful friendships? Friendships in the context of a Christ-centered community have the power to shape you and move you towards a greater purpose. You’ll never regret investing in a friend.

Wally

Dr. Wally Hostetter is a co-pastor at Mount Pleasant Community Church.