Posts Tagged ‘friendship’

I was in a Target retail store today walking down a main aisle to get to school supplies (looking for a graphing calculator for one of my boys).  As I looked ahead, I saw an elderly lady with a shopping cart stop and begin to eye me.  I could tell she thought I might be a Target employee.  Sure enough, when I was close enough for her to make herself heard, she inquired as to whether I worked at the store (as I was wearing khaki slacks and an orange-red shirt, her thought was understandable).

However, how she phrased her question caught me up short — and has had me thinking ever since.  She asked, “Are you a customer, or are you a real person?”

After confirming with her I was a customer, I began thinking on the latter half of her question — “are you a real person?”   Oh, I’m definitely flesh and blood, but that simply means I’m existing.  In looking for descriptions of a “real person,” I came across words like genuine, authentic, giving, loving and vulnerable.  If those words characterize a “real person” (and I think it certainly encompasses those things), then I sometimes struggle.

I naturally lean toward a “type-A personality,” but I’m also introverted by nature.  The results of such a combination are often stoicism (lack of showing emotion) and introversion.  I can often seem unapproachable, difficult to talk with, interested in people only in terms of how they can contribute to tasks at hand (a commodity).  When emotion does come out, it can often be in the form of impatience and/or frustration.

As I’ve reflected on this, I can think of many times when I’ve not been a “real person,” but rather a brooding, self-absorbed person.  Times when I’ve gotten frustrated and impatient with my wife or boys because they haven’t gotten something done or because they don’t get what I’m trying to explain after they’ve asked me to help them with their homework.  Times when I’ve “withdrawn” rather than drawn close.

I remember a time awhile back when a friend from work and I were talking.  This friend was trying to help me see why sometimes I could be intimidating or thought to be unapproachable.  As she was talking, I remained impassive.  I offered no words or facial expressions/body language.  Exasperated, she said, “See, this is what I’m talking about.  I have no idea what you’re thinking and wonder whether you care at all.”  I wasn’t being a real person.

As I’ve continued to think, the apostle Paul’s words on the fruit of the Spirit keeps coming to my mind:  “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control….”  A real person is one who exhibits these characteristics.  Such a person is genuine and values people as people (versus a commodity useful in accomplishing tasks).  Such a person is one who enriches others’ lives simply by how they interact with others – exhibiting the fruit outlined above.

As a Christian, I should be, by-and-large, a real person.  None of us is a perfect real person, but as a Christian, being a real person (defined by the fruit of the Spirit) should be the norm.  Christ says, and I’m paraphrasing here, that you can recognize a people by how they act — as you can identify a tree by its fruit.  A good tree (real person) bears good fruit (love, joy, peace, gentleness, kindness, etc).  A bad tree, on the other hand, produces bad fruit (self-centeredness, impatience, anger, indifference, harshness, etc).  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.

At the end of the day, I want to be able to answer that elderly woman’s question with, “Yes, I’m a real person.”  I can’t do that in my own strength, but only by walking in and with the Spirit of God.  May I, may we all, do so and be “real people.”

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It’s very rare that I remember my dreams I have while sleeping. They usually have to touch something deep and emotional for me to remember — and even then, I only remember “snatches” of the dreams. Not too long ago, I dreamt a lovely dream — Neil and Sandra; Mike and Susie; Kevin and Barbie — all dear friends from college (or shortly after); and my wife Mary and I were, for some unknown but happy reason, gathered for a reunion of sorts. We laughed and talked of old times, of getting older, of health scares. It was really great “seeing” these old friends. 
When I awoke, I realized and meditated on several things:

a) the many wonderful friendships God has blessed me with over the years – the names and faces passed through my mind. Childhood and high school friends who made growing up fun and what childhood should be; dear college friends who helped keep me grounded (when it would have been easy to sow oats that would haunt me today) – friends in adulthood: Air Force friends who became a “band of brothers” – theater friends who helped me find artistic creativity, shared great love, and taught me how to have fun; spiritual friends who have helped me grow as a leader and in my faith.

b) the devastating impact children, distance and time (age) can have on friendships, making them more like “deeper” acquaintances. Don’t get me wrong – children are great (I wouldn’t trade mine for the world), but they do impact friendships as your time is limited; distance wreaks havoc on friendships; and age (time) diminishes the energy we once had for the frequent get-togethers (plays, dinners, parties, etc).

c) but “at the end of the day,” I realize that these are not acquaintances — for if I had a deep, real need – these people would respond, they would cross the distance, find the energy, make “room” in their lives, they would support me, for the bond of friendship remains. This has been demonstrated in loss, in crisis, in the milestones of life.
 And I am grateful as I realize this. I am grateful as I think on the friends and friendships that have come throughout my life from childhood to today. I hope as I continue to age, that I’ll never forget the need and meaning of friends and that I’ll “make room” in my life for relationships and not let the “tyranny of the urgent,” things, or age crowd people out.

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