By Henrylito D. Tacio
“He is not my friend, so why should we reconcile?” That was what Davao City Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte said when inquired why there was no need for reconciliation between him and House Speaker Prospero C. Nograles.
I came to know this while reading a recent issue of Sun Star Davao. The answer of Mayor Duterte stopped me from working for a while and left me pondering some thought. “What is a friend, anyway?” I asked myself.
“A single soul in two bodies” was how philosopher Aristotle described a friend. To Len Wein, a friend is “someone who is there for you when he’d rather be anywhere else.” Father Jerome Cummings considers a friend as the person who “who knows us, but loves us anyway.” Ralph Waldo Emerson believes a friend is “the masterpiece of nature.”
But the definition I like most is the one which Dinah Craik (author of 1859’s A Life for a Life) penned: “ A friend is one to whom one may pour out all the contents of one’s heart chaff and grain, together. Knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what’s worth keeping and blow the rest away.”
The old song “No Man Is an Island” is true! People need people. Those who try to prove they don’t need others set themselves up for failure or disappointment in life. As Kahlil Gibran wrote in The Prophet: “Your friend is your needs answered. He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving. And he is your board and your fireside. For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.”
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 reminds, “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.”
One of the most famous stories of friendship in the Bible was the one between David and Jonathan. The account begins in First Samuel 18:1 just after David had defeated Goliath. “Now it came about when he (David) had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan (Saul’s son) was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself.”
In Out of Solitude, Henri Nouwen pointed out, “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing, and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
History is also replete with stories of friends. From the Philippines, I could think of the friendship between our national hero Jose Rizal and Ferdinand Blumentritt, a German teacher and a secondary school principal. Blumentritt was among the foremost experts on the Philippines of his day, although he never visited the country.
“In prosperity, our friends know us; in adversity, we know our friends,” J. Churton Collins said. This statement reminds me of a story which happened in the United States. Out of Miami come many sad stories of Cuban refugees who had to abandon their homes, businesses, professions – all that they knew and loved – in order to preserve their rights as free men. Hundreds were bidding for every available job, no matter how menial.
One such incident concerns a man who had been a high official in Cuba’s customs and immigration service. He had applied for work at a Miami hotel, hoping to be taken on as a bellboy or a dishwasher. The manager, who had been several times to Cuba, happened to recognize him.
“Say, weren’t you once in the Cuban customs office?” the manager asked and the man acknowledged that he had been. “I was right, you are really that person,” the manager said.
“Three years ago, I visited Cuba, and had a terrible time with the customs department. Everything I said to the officials only seemed to make things worse for me. Then a perfectly strange official came along and straightened them and me out. That man was you, wasn’t it?”
The Cuban guy replied affirmatively. “When I found out I wasn’t going to jail,” the manager continued, “I was so grateful I offered you US$100. But you said you’d rather have a friend.”
The Cuban smiled and nodded at the memory. “Well,” the American hotel manager said, “you have a friend. And this hotel is your home as long as you need one. Friendship works both ways.”
“We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed,” James Boswell once said. “As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over. So in a series of acts of kindness there is, at last, one which makes the heart run over.”
It’s no wonder why several songs about friends and friendship have been written. Burt Bacharach wrote this famous sung by Dionne Warwick: “And if I should ever go away, well then close your eyes and try to feel the way we do today. And then if you can remember: Keep smiling, keep shining knowing you can always count on me, for sure. That’s what friends are for. For good times and bad times, I’ll be on your side forever more. That’s what friends are for.”
Another favorite song most people usually sing is this: “When you’re down and troubled and you need a helping hand. And nothing, nothing is going right. Close your eyes and think of me. And soon I will be there to brighten up even your darkest nights. You just call out my name. And you know wherever I am, I’ll come running to see you again. Winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have to do is call. And I’ll be there, yeah, yeah, yeah, you’ve got a friend.” James Taylor popularized this song way back in the 1970s.
“A friend knows the song in my heart and sings it to me when my memory fails,” Donna Roberts said.” C.S. Lewis also stated, “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”
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