Last week, we sat with about four hundred other people at one end of Court Street in Florence, Alabama. The occasion was the annual W. C. Handy Jazz Festival. (Florence is where Charlotte grew up and where her mother and sister/brother-in-law still live.) The annual W. C. Handy Festival is quite an event with jazz bands playing throughout the city for one week. During this week, different bands will play in parks, on the streets, in auditoriums, and in various other places. This was a unusually cool, July evening. One end of Court Street had been closed so that people could gather and enjoy this band. We were with longtime friends just listening to one particular band and enjoying the evening.
I am so thankful for friends. I recognize that I need different kinds of friends in my life. Throughout my life, God has blessed me with an assortment of friends. I have stayed in touch with some of these friends throughout the years. Other friends have a very significant place in my heart and memory, but we are rarely able to see one another.
Recently, I was thinking about the kind of friends I need:
1. I need the friends who have known me for a long time. Some of these friends I see more often than others. Yet, I am thankful for the occasions when I get to be with friends with whom I have shared some significant moments. I may not see these friends very often. Yet, when we are together, there continues to be a sense of connection.
2. I need the friends who inspire me to live better. When I am with these people, I want to live better.
3. I need the friends who stay in touch through e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and occasional phone calls. Sometimes I take the initiative to connect. Sometimes they do. However, I am so thankful for these exchanges. For example, I am thankful that through Facebook, I enjoy the opportunity to reconnect with some old high school friends. We shared a significant time in life together, and it is good to be able to at least stay in contact through Facebook.
4. I need the friends who I am with on a casual basis. Some friends I meet at lunch or for coffee. Others I rarely spend time with and yet there is usually affirming, encouraging exchange when we are together. I am simply talking about the people who we share life with in the present. I am grateful for these people.
5. I need the friends who will let me be myself. What a gift! This is so different than being with people who seem to be critiquing or evaluating.
6. I need the friends who encourage me. These are friends who realize that sometimes I do get discouraged, whether I express this or not. So much of life can be very discouraging and draining. Being with an encourager is such a gift of grace.
7. I need older friends but I also need younger friends. Regardless of their age, I love to be with people who are still growing and thinking.
Yes, I understand that this is not the end of the story. I understand that as a Jesus follower that I will have a variety of people in my life. Not all of these people may be friends, at least in the way I have described some of the people I need in my life. Nevertheless, I am thankful for a few who will be friends. How important.
Yes, I also understand that I am called to be a friend to another person. I hope that I am a good friend to a few people, perhaps in some of the ways I have described.
What kind of friends do you need in your life?