Mark Twain reportedly wrote many years ago, “The man who does not read good books has little advantage over him who cannot read.” If I’m off a word or two, please forgive me and understand that the mistake is utterly without malice aforethought. The thought still rings true in our electronic and data-driven age but I’d like to offer a parallel amended version: “People who do not take time to be with friends have little advantage over those who have no friends.”
Now I admit a general deficiency in the making time for folks category. But I am working on it. In the past two weeks, I’ve had the privilege of private visits in our home with four different people. In each case, we created the gifts of unhurried conversation. Sitting on the couches in our living room, with no TV and with cell phones set aside, we sat and talked.
We swapped stories from years ago, talked about growing up, discussed music, exchanged quips and witticisms. We even discussed politics and religion. No insults, no anger, no exaggerated reactions and no name calling. At least two things happened in each of those conversations: 1) We enjoyed ourselves and each other and 2) we got to know one other better.
Much of what we pretend is “visiting” these days is in reality little more than shared entertainment or mutual diversion. I enjoy watching movies and football games at least as much as the next person and possibly more than most people. Watching those things with friends or family can create pleasant (or painful) shared memories.
But if we really want to know each other, build and strengthen relationships that transcend circumstance and situation, meaningful conversation is an essential foundation.
I’m sure that the disciples of The Carpenter enjoyed watching those miracles and listening to those mountainside sermons. They probably loved sharing and re-sharing that story about seeing Jesus strolling along off-stern across the waves. But even with the Son of God, my guess is that it was the long trods across stony paths and the hours of uninterrupted conversation that grew those relationships of faith and bound them together in a way that changed the world.
A world that could still use the good changes formed and forged by good friends.