I received a text message yesterday afternoon from a friend I’ve reconnected with through Facebook. I checked the date. We’ve been Facebook friends since 2011. We’ve known each other since 1965. Can it really have been that long? At any rate, the message stated, “In your area, want to come to your church Sunday. Please send information.” I was absolutely delighted. I can’t recall if I’ve seen Docena and Mike since we graduated from college, but I don’t think so. They currently live in Oklahoma City. Mike’s career track was that of an Army chaplain. He is currently retired military. I subsequently learned that another couple from college is traveling with them. Larry and Becky will be joining us on Sunday as well. They, too, have a background in full-time Christian work. I look forward to seeing friends I’ve not seen in 46 years. At the same time, I am experiencing a low level of anxiety. Both men are “professional preachers”. You don’t find that in my neighborhood.
Someone mentioned to me this week that the days can seem long, but the years go by quickly. Simply by happenstance, I had a meeting Thursday morning with a representative of the college we all attended. Our agency has been gifted with the opportunity to offer students a full-tuition scholarship to the school through the generous gift of a benefactor who loved the university and also loves the children’s home.
I have a knack for remembering details that virtually have no significance. When I started to college in 1965, the tuition was $18 a credit hour. Four years later it had raised to $36 a credit hour. There is nothing like doubling the cost of education in a span of four years. Would you like to guess the cost forty-six years later? Would you believe $32,000 a year?
I remember from my childhood a television game show entitled “The $64,000 Question”. From the vantage point of being in elementary school, I could not imagine anyone having that much money. Today the same amount will cover the cost for two years of college.
At any rate, the text message I received Friday evening reminded me of an email I received thirteen years ago. It was also from a friend from college that I had not seen in thirty-three years. She had seen news of my affiliation with the agency where I work in our college alumni magazine. We were friends in college and attended the same college-youth group at church. We never dated, but were often thrown together for church outings, Sunday dinners at homes of church members, study-time at the library and recreational activities in the student center. Interestingly, she began the email stating I probably wouldn’t remember her, but that we were friends in college, etc. She provided a quick overview of her life on the foreign mission field, the death of her husband, her return as a single parent to the foreign mission field with two young children, the current ages of her sons who are now young adults and her current vocation working in a mission ministry endeavor in another state.
I remember that I was tempted to respond that despite our advanced ages, I was still too young to have lost all of my cognitive abilities. Of course, I remembered her. We were friends. Receiving her email, I thought back to the number of times across the years I’d driven through the Lubbock area on business and also remembered that she was from a small community near Lubbock. Through our college years, I had met her family on more than one occasion. I remembered their names and could have momentarily detoured from my travels to make a telephone call to inquire about her whereabouts and activities of her life. Somehow I was always too busy and pressed for time. Consequently, I lost contact.
Perhaps you have to be my age before you begin to realize that the things in life that matter most are relationships. Unfortunately, because of our transitory lifestyles maintaining relationships require effort. You can’t maintain the status quo and at the same time be obsessed with career goals, demands of work and family, establishment and maintenance of new friendships when the culture we live in requires moving to new locations and starting over in friendship formation. Probably all of us can sadly assess a host of people who historically were important in our lives, but who are now relegated to only an occasional passing thought on those rare occasions when we reflect back on another place and another time.
I don’t recall where I found this illustration, but I found it captivating. “On the North side of Ft Worth in 1944 there were six high school girls; seniors I believe…High school was ending and the war was about over and life seemed lush with promises. They made a covenant. Clara Lee Wilcox, Wilnoli Bell, Bonnie Wills, Jean Hall, Polly Hampton and Jenella Coach made a promise. You would have just thought it was a high school girl’s promise. They promised that they would meet every three months for as long as they lived. A promise made in 1944”.
“At the time the story was recorded, a half a century later, they kept that covenant-promise. They kept it through marriage and divorce; through illness, through births and deaths, and for nearly fifty years there has not been one unexcused absence. They meet for lunch and they meet for dinner. On occasions where one of them could not be present, there was a pledge that that person would call and talk to the other five who were present. Some subjects have been off-bounds. They’ve never talked about one another, just to one another. They’ve never discussed the relative careers of their husbands, but across fifty-years they have kept the covenant of friendship”. That is a pretty incredible record.
Most of us didn’t have the privilege of having the opportunity to maintain on-going long-term contact with friends from high school. When we graduated from high school we left our hometown for college and through subsequent employment opportunities found ourselves scattered all over the country. We lived in a day before cell phones, the Internet and electronic media. Keeping up with folks was a daunting task, if not impossible.
It is kind of refreshing to know that times have changed. We now have the technology at our fingertips to eradicate the distance and reconnect with the past. I can’t think of a better investment than renewing friendships from long ago and far away.
All My Best!