Voices: In this day and age, having a friend is a precious thing

By Dan Mullis

Standing in a cemetery, your good friend has just buried his mother, he turns to you and embraces you and says "thank you for being here." At that moment there is no better place for you to be.

Friends and family being there during uncertain, difficult, tragic and sad times to help us get through whatever is happening has always been part of our heritage.

Our world is full of stress and uncertainty: Is my job secure? Will it be there tomorrow? How can we pay our bills? Do I have enough insurance or do I have any insurance? Are my kids getting a good education? Is my child safe at school or at day care? Is there going to be another 9/11? Is my retirement fund going to last? Where is the next war? ... and on and on with the daily things we think about and deal with.

People seem to be meaner to each other, there is an attitude of me first, and manners and respect are in short supply. Everyone seems to be on edge and running scared. Our country's politics are simply nasty and corrupt. There is so much anger and hate; to have a friend is a precious thing.

In these days we all have those times we need a friend to lean on. Someone to be there for us. In general, people are friendly, but not all take the step to be a friend. There is a difference.

A few, but not all, who need a friend: Our people and their families serving in the military. Hearing from home makes the time go faster and the loneliness easier to handle. Go to their families to see if they need something. Friends were there when I was serving. They fixed the broken plumbing. They took my wife on vacation with them. They were there when loneliness set in.

Those who are out of work need a word of encouragement. Ask is there something I can do to help? Perhaps a gift card to a restaurant or better yet, have them to your home for a meal and a time of friendship.

Those who are dealing with long-term family sickness need a helping hand. Someone to give them a break from their caregiving. To run errands for them, to take care of daily routine things. To free their minds of those smaller worries.

The elderly love company; visit a nursing home and take time to have a conversation with someone and see the pleasure given. These folks are in the last days of their lives and they know it. A friend who visits is a treasure to them. It might not be comfortable for you, but it does wonders for them.

Mentor a kid ... there are so many needs that we can help with. The number of single parent or no-parent kids is growing and they need help. A smile, a visit, a helping hand is always welcome. Kids are getting lost in the shuffle of our world. The world is full of people with needs.

There are many programs and agencies that provide some type of aid or help that many of us have come to depend on. Now we see these programs breaking down and the government is not able to fund them because it is broke. More money thrown at the problem is all they know and the money is going fast. This means that people are turning to churches, food pantries, charitable agencies and friends for help. When life gets down to the bottom of the barrel, friends need to be there to pull us out.

We all say the same thing: "My life is full and I am so busy I just can't get everything crammed in." Yet we go out in a blizzard and drive 20 or more miles to get to the hall to see a ball game. Some camp out all night in bad weather to be first in line at the box store to get the latest iPad, Pea-Pod or whatever the newest gadget is called. The restaurants are all full, the stadiums are full, the malls are full, the theaters are full, and our lives are full. Full of what? A friend says we are all very busy getting "stuff." And around us people are looking for that friend to lean on and we miss them in our rush for more "stuff."

We seem to be in a culture of living in a virtual world filled with video games, animated cartoons, texting, tweeting, and if we don't like what pops up we can delete it. We don't have to be face-to-face; we can distance ourselves from the problem. Reality can be scary; the real world is full of life we can't delete and is sometimes harsh. Then hopefully there is a friend standing beside us to turn to and say "thank you for being here."

As a Christian we are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). James 2:16-17 tells us it does no good to tell someone you wish them well if you do nothing to help them be well. We all know the story of the Good Samaritan. A man in great need lay hurt on the roadside. Two men who should have helped walked on by. One who had no reason to help stopped and gave help. Who are we? The one in need, the ones who ignore the need, or the one who sees the need and tries to help? In these days there are times we are each one.

Benjamin Franklin said, "We must, indeed all hang together, or most assuredly, we shall all hang separately." He was talking about establishing our country's independence. The same can be said about us, we must all work (hang) together or we will all lose together. Another well-known character, Red Green, says it this way, "I'm pulling for you, we are all in this together."

Dan Mullis is a retired instrument maker from the University of Illinois who lives in Danville.

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