Genuine friendships can be genuinely mysterious

The seeds of friendships often grow in mysterious ways.

The friendship with one of my dear friends began years ago when a mutual friend, a young man with a lovely wife and two small children, was diagnosed with cancer. She often cared for their children and saw that the family had meals; I sometimes watched the children as well and lent a hand. Our mutual friend died, but a new friendship lived.

One of my oldest friendships began near an information table at the back of a small church. A woman recognized us as new (that bewildered look on my face wasn’t hard to read), introduced herself and invited us to her home. Over the years we have been welcomed into their home as well as their family.

I met one of my best friends in the neighborhood at the corner one day while taking the kids for a walk. She was walking with her children and said, “You bought that house down the block, didn’t you?” I was puzzled a stranger knew where I lived. “We were interested in that house,” she said, “but you were faster making an offer.” If you like the same house, you’re going to like a lot of the same other things as well.

You never know. A random meeting. A casual hello. An introduction.

I never would have known that an older man from North Carolina who emailed me a decade ago would become a genuine friend. He sent a note of consolation responding to a column about my mother dying. Later, from time to time, he would forward interesting reading material, consumer tips, links to engaging talks or presentations he had attended.

He is a remarkable man—retired military chaplain, constant learner, voracious reader. He grew up hard, with a suffering that yields compassion—genuine compassion—the authentic kind, not the made-for-TV kind.

One day the phone rang and a gravelly voice with a rich southern accent greeted me. He’d read a column I wrote about my nephew who lost his sight and had gotten a guide dog. He wanted to send a small check to that young man, a total stranger. “Enough to cover a big bag of dog food,” he said. I refused. He persisted. “I want him to know someone in North Carolina is thinking of him and praying for him.”

My friend is a dog lover, too, sharing space with Bucky, who weighs in at 73 pounds. So once in awhile, out of the blue, a check for dog food travels cross country. Daniel knows my nephew can easily provide for his dog, but money is not the point. The point is Daniel enjoys giving. And encouraging.

Whenever we speak by phone, I can count on Daniel asking me to do him a favor and look up Luke 6:38. “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”

Of the great things we often dream of and aspire to, extending the hand of friendship and small kindnesses may be among the truly greatest.

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