The best thing I’ve ever read about friendship is Proverbs 18:24: A man who has friends must himself be friendly.
The second best thing is this quote from Dale Carnegie: You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.
Sam Rayburn, democratic leader from Texas, served for more than forty-eight years in the U.S. House of Representatives (1913–61), including seventeen years as speaker. At the height of his career, he was one of the most powerful men in the world, but he never outgrew his friends.
One night, a friend’s teenage daughter passed away. Early the next morning the man heard a knock on his door and when he opened it, there was Mr. Rayburn standing outside.
“I just came by to see what I could do to help,” said Rayburn.
“I don’t think there is anything you can do, Mr. Speaker,” said the broken father. “We are making all the arrangements.”
“Well,” Mr. Rayburn said, “have you had your coffee this morning?”
The man replied that they had not taken time for breakfast. So Mr. Rayburn said that he could at least make coffee for them. While he was working in the kitchen, the man came in and said, “Mr. Speaker, I thought you were supposed to be having breakfast at the White House this morning.”
“Well, I was,” Rayburn said, “but I called the President and told him I had a friend who was in trouble, and I couldn’t come.”
Queen Victoria once shared her impressions of her two most famous prime ministers. Of William Gladstone, she said, “When I am with him, I feel I am with one of the most important leaders in the world.” On the other hand, she confessed that when she was with Disraeli, he made her feel “as if I am one of the most important leaders of the world.”
That reminds me of something my father once said. He was a school teacher up in the mountain districts. Over the years he served under a number of county school superintendents, two of whom (I’ll call them Jones and Johnson) he once compared in this way. “When I went to Jones with a request, he could turn it down and make me feel good. But when I went to Johnson with a request, he would usually grant the request, but he always made me feel bad in the process.”
That brings me to the third best thing I’ve ever heard about friendship. Andy Rooney once quipped: Good old friends are worth keeping—whether you like them or not.
Never ask yourself, “How can I find good friends?” Ask instead, “How can I be a better friend to someone else?” Imitate our Lord, who always takes the initiative in loving us.
Find needs and meet them. Look for the lonely and love them. Remember birthdays. Make calls. Send notes. Be there in difficult times. Laugh with those who laugh, and weep with those who weep. Keep your friendships in good repair, and you’ll be the richest person on the block.
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