There was once a bit of humor portrayed by two hoboes talking to one another on a park bench. They were having one of those not uncommon hobo conversations about the meaning of life because there’s not much else to do, when you are a hobo, except maybe scavenge around a bit. They were discussing the greatest invention of all time. They considered the atom bomb, computers, and even electricity before discarding them as not totally fitting as the greatest ever. There was a moment of silence while they thought.

Finally, one of the men raised a finger into the air. “I’ve got it,” he exclaimed.
“What is it?” the other hobo inquired, anxiously. The hobo with his finger in the air lowered it to pick up his thermos.
“It’s the ‘termos’,” he stated, holding the tubular vessel in the air.
“The thermos?” his buddy asked in shock.
“Yes, the ‘termos’,” the other man said. “You put hot things in it and they stay hot. You put cold things in and they stay cold.”
The two men looked at one another.
“Why does that make it a great invention,” the one hobo asked.
“How do it know?” the other responded.

Who is simply using us for their own survival, or warehousing our friendship for future survival needs? How do we know? Around the holidays most of us give pause to consider this question, even if we don’t specifically isolate it for detailed analysis. The question is always there, unless a conclusion has been arrived at due to the previous circumstance in life experience. Just about everyone on earth, by the time they reach a certain age, has figured out that real friendship is almost impossible to develop without action. As societies have been driven, or attracted, ever deeper into the arrival of electronic communications and presentation, spoken and written words have cheapened. Quite possibly, it is only the perception of these things being taken for less that is involved, as electronic communications have also educated the public much more deeply about such things. Nevertheless, the proof of friendship is in the actions leading to such a relationship. Friendship being defined as; an emotional bonding for life, as deep as family, and in many cases deeper than familial relationships. The expression “you can choose your friends, but you don’t get to choose your family,” is recognized by almost everyone for its accuracy and applicability. What are the conditions that usually need to be present to form relationships founded on solid foundations?   For the most part, it is in times of trouble that the actions of potential friends can be measured. The actions of the friend, particularly when linked to the other person, likely would be those of angst and hardship overcome. They would evidence a loyalty not otherwise demonstrated, even by humans who know one another well. A combat veteran was once asked about the other vet he’d shared foxholes with: “how do you feel about the fact that a man you served with ran away from a battle?” The vet thought for a moment before replying. “I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t served with a man who knew when to run. When he ran, I ran with him. We are both here today because of his good judgment.”

Is serving the specific, over the general, part of arriving at a decision to befriend? The veteran who ran was making a survival decision for himself and his buddy against the potential outcome of the whole. The country might find him guilty of cowardice, but the country could hardly find him guilty of not being loyal to his fellow soldier. And such is friendship. The best friendships are often forged under such circumstance, and once forged, they can be immutably bonded against other acts that might seemingly divide, but pale in comparison, to the actions that brought about the friendship.

In one of the episodes of the successful 50’s television show called I Love Lucy, Lucille Ball’s character is seemingly betrayed by her best friends and her own husband over a slight. Lucy leaves her apartment, goes down into a nearby park at night and rises up the homeless people to march. With a big drum, they parade around the park chanting “friends of the friendless.” It was hilarious. It is not quite so funny to be in that situation, however, as I am sure some reading this can testify to. In reality, there is no crowd of homeless waiting in the darkened park, no drum, no chanting. There is only a lack of direction and meaning for those who’ve either never been able to build friendships and tribal ties, or been unable, through their actions, to sustain them. Let the coming of this 2019 entry into the New Year allow those who are capable of reading this to understand what must be done to avoid living and dying alone. Find the commitment, the spine and the ability to express inner honor outward to those of value around you. Only bliss can follow from making the effort and then judging others by the same standard used to judge the actions of oneself.

~James Strauss

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