Last week one of my sons was dealing with a friendship issue. I found myself telling him that there are all kinds of friends: friends you play sports with, friends you hang around with, friends you invite home, friends you go on holidays with, friends you share your stuff with and friends that you’d die for.
My son asked me a questioned that I had never thought about: “Papa which friend would you die for?” Without any effort the answer came: my friend Tim. Now why is that?
Over 20 years ago Tim learnt that my young brother and sister were coming down to London to spend a week with me – holiday. Tim not only offered me his prized possession – his Saab – he got me insured on it, he drove it down to my place, showed me how to drive it and left me the keys. Not once did I think about asking for his Saab, nor did I ask for it. It all came from him – an act of pure kindness.
This incident got me thinking of another incident some years ago. At my aunt’s funeral I was astonished to find my young brother as one of the pole bearers. This is a young man who has kept himself aloof from his aunts, uncles and cousins for many many years. So I asked him why he was present at the funeral and why he had insisted on carrying her coffin and seeing it put into the ground.
He told me that when he was young (age five or less) his foot hurt. He had told our mother and father and they had paid no attention to his pain. Yet when he happened to go with our mother to visit this aunt she noticed that there was something wrong with his leg. She took a look at it and figured out that his ankle was sprained. So she took him – right away – to see someone who specialised in putting that kind of thing right. To cut a long story short: my aunt had removed his pain, his suffering and he remembered that for some 30 years!
When I die all that will remain is the footsteps that I have left in the memories of my fellow human beings. Let those footsteps be the footsteps of generosity, kindness and compassion illustrated by my friend Tim and by my aunt.