Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Fifth Day of Christmas

Friendship. At first, I thought I would just go with friends, and maybe later I will- they certainly deserve a day all alone- not today.

As I thought today about a gift that has been given to me I couldn’t help but think of the way my parents taught my brother and I to ‘be friends’ with others. My family was never very wealthy and my parents never really had a whole lot to give in the way of ‘things.’ They did give of their loyalty, kindness, compassion, and love. In doing so, they taught my brother and I to do the same.

I can remember going ‘shopping’ in our closet for toys- and they could not be old or broken- that a family in the church could use since the father had been laid off work and the kids were only going to get one gift that year. We gave some of our nicest away- wrapped and ready to go.

I had tears in my eyes today as I recalled a time we went to visit a family friend while on vacation. My parents had heard that they were facing hard times and our visit was to help them out. I remember that we showed up right around dinner time. We were graciously invited to eat and my parents insisted they make a trip to the grocery store to buy a few ‘extra’ items for the meal. My parents filled the house with at least six grocery bags of food and when we left that evening everyone was crying. I was young and although I don’t remember a whole lot- I remember knowing my parents had done something wonderful for that family.

I cannot count the number of times we have accompanied my parents on grocery runs for other families. Nor can I count the number of times we wrapped gifts and dropped them off at someone’s house. My brother and I were almost always allowed to be involved. I don’t really know if we were ever given a reason- it was just something that needed to be done and so we did it.

I wish I could tell you how many people they helped with acts of kindness… I certainly know quit a few by name… but to say would somehow cheapen their gift… so I will just simply say that it is far too many to count- and that is completely true.

My father was a friend to anyone. He knew every family on the block on a first name basis. My mother was a little different. She seemed to have a wall- but not really- once you were inside- and just about anyone could get there- she was just as friendly and fiercely loyal. The crowds at their home going services were testaments to their friendships- just as the letter I received yesterday from one of their close friends still trying to somehow pay them back for years of kindness.

So today I am thankful for the gift of knowing what friendship really means. It means you allow yourself to give to others without ever expecting them to pay you back or return the favor. It means your door is always open and there is always an extra seat at the table. Those things are easy to say- but really meaning them is a different story.

I have many friends. Some closer than others. All too often I do not tell them how much they mean to me and how much I love them. I want to be a better friend; someone who really is an example of how friendship should work. I had such a wonderful example growing up. If I could take anything from my parents… any trait that I want to posses in a double portion… I want to be able to be a true friend. I have much work to do.


JulieK said...

Oh Joseph this post brought so many tears to my eyes. Thank you for such a beautiful post. Your parents were wonderful people they helped us when we were in need, And we could never pay them back for what they did. Thank you for having such a giving spirit you rub off on our children. I hope I can only live such an example to my children and lead them as your parents and Todd's mother were such examples. Thank you!

Lynn said...

I'd say you've learned well from them, this 5th day is one I appreciate from you day in/day out. You are a true friend, as your parents were. I'll never forget how many times that extra chair at the table was filled with me and how no matter how frequent it was for me to show up at dinner time, your parents always treated me like it was my first. Welcoming me with open arms. Thanks for this 5th day, I'll cherish it for a lifetime.

Keith and Carla said...

I'm thankful for my parents teaching us about giving, also. We are truly blessed to have been raised this way. What an inheritance!!!

Joseph James said...

Julie: Thanks... and your kids are wonderful to work with! (And... so everyone else who happens to read this will... your are too! lol)

Lynn: What I remember most are the times you seemed to show up when my parents were grilling steak... so maybe the real reason you fit it was because I never ate one! lol j/k

Keith and Carla: I actually remember a time when the Bradley's helped my parents out. It is great to be in the family of God!