Just a friend dropping by. Do I have to have a reason?
I guess, youre right, I said. I used to think that I had quite a few friends, until I couldnt be of much use to them any longer. I thought they stayed around me because we cared about one another. But when things really got bad for me, they disappeared so fast youd think they vanished into thin air.
So you were mad at them because they didnt stand by you? he asked in his best cross-examination manner. Well, not really. I guess I was sort of disappointed. After all, arent friends supposed to stick with you through thick and thin? I was thinking of how sad and lonely it was when I went through those terrible experiences of losing my business and material possessions, my wifes death, the loss of both my parents and so many other unpleasant situations. There were times I felt downright deceived, somewhat abandoned.
Are you finished? he asked sarcastically, as if reading my thoughts.
Of course Im finished, I replied.
So when do you want it?
Want what? I asked, somewhat annoyed.
The medal. You deserve a medal, dont you?
What for, Gideon? I asked, what are you driving at? You poor thing! All those friends deserting you when you needed them most! What a pity! He shook his head in mock sympathy. He was actually laughing at me. Thats not funny, Gideon. Its not even fair. I thought you were my friend, I said, whining in self-pity.
Of course, Im your friend and Im trying to tell you that you cant decide how others will choose. You can only decide how you choose.
I know that, Gideon. I was just reflecting on those sad times. I wished there were a few who would have stayed around. Almost all of them left.
Then remember this, John.People leave,not because of who you are,but because of who they are. Joyce Sequichie Hifler tells of a Cherokee concept of friendship. She says, We talk about choosing our friends, but true friends are self-selected. It is they who decide to re- spond and by what method. Acquaintances wait and judge. A friend is a unali without question or fear. . . . That is why friends are dear to us. They have chosen to be so.
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