Did you know that if you isolate yourself from other people, you are two to three times more likely to die an early death? If you are divorced, separated or widowed, you have a five to 10 times greater chance of being hospitalized for mental disorders than if you are married. Some of you might be a little discouraged with your marriage, but focus on the positive: It’s keeping you out of the mental hospital.
Living alone can make you crazy. You will go crazy and won’t even realize it. For example, married people don’t go crazy without realizing it because their mates will tell them, “You’re crazy!”
There are several good ways to stay sane. You can go see a shrink and lie on a sofa and talk about your mother, you can get married (by the way, both are very expensive), or you can have friends. God said it isn’t good to be alone. We need other people. Even when Simon was singing “I am a rock, I am an island,” he had Garfunkel singing backup. We need friends.
A police officer took training in how to deal with snakebite victims. The trainer even taught the officers what to do if they were bitten by a snake but were unable to get medical attention. He explained in great detail that under extreme circumstances one would have to cut his or her skin with a sharp knife and suck out the venom by mouth. At that point the officer asked, “What happens if I get bitten on my behind?” After a long pause the instructor said, “Then you’ll find out if you have any friends.” When life hits you from behind, you need friends.
A good friend will do five things for you. The first is to bring good cheer. We need encouragement. We need to be told that the light at the end of the tunnel is not a train.
A good friend has a listening ear. Many people don’t listen; they just reload, waiting to tell you what you’ve done wrong. We don’t always want answers; we want assurance. Sometimes we don’t need solutions; we just need sympathy.
A good friend will often shed a sensitive tear. We need to be comforted. Comfort is the ability to stick it out without pointing it out. Kids understand comfort better than adults. Little Johnny was supposed to be home from school at a certain time each day. One day he was particularly late. When he came in his mother asked, “Where have you been?” He said, “I had to help a friend.” “What happened?” asked his mother. “My friend fell down and started to cry.” “And what did you do?” “I sat down and cried with him.” That’s comfort.
A good friend is not afraid to give us a kick in the rear. I need someone to remind me what the Nike commercial says: “Just Do It!”
And a good friend will speak the truth without fear — he will tell us the truth. A few years ago I had back problems, and my friend told me, “Your back is not your problem, Charles, it’s your stomach. Your stomach is so big it’s straining your back.” First I was insulted, then I realized he was right. I was getting bigger. I noticed it when I went out in my yellow rain coat and the people were running behind me hollering “Taxi!” A friend will see through you — or in my case, around me — and also see you through. I lost weight, and now my back is fine because a friend wasn’t afraid to tell me the truth.
Remember: good cheer, a listening ear, a sensitive tear, a kick in the rear, and truth without fear. That’s what friends are for, and a true friend will know what you need because a friend is always near.
A little boy and his family moved often over a period of a few years. It’s tough when you are in and out of different schools so often. One day when he was sitting at home in a melancholy mood, the boy asked his dad, “Who do you want to be, Superman or Batman?” Dad replied, “Well, Son, you know I’m kind of busy right now.” “Dad, come on. Who do you want to be, Superman or Batman?” “Well, Superman, Son. I want to be Superman.” “Why, Dad?” “Well, I don’t know, Son. He can fly. That’s why.” And Dad went about his business. The little boy continued. “Dad, aren’t you going to ask me who I want to be?” So the dad complied, “Okay, who do you want to be, Superman or Batman?” “I want to be Batman.” The father said, “Good, Son, that’s good.” The boy continued, “Dad, aren’t you going to ask me why?” “Okay,” the father sighed, “why do you want to be Batman?” “I want to be Batman because Batman has a friend.” Dad stopped, turned around, and saw a tear in his son’s eye. He asked, “Son, do you need a friend?” “Yeah,” he said, “I need a friend more than I need Superman.”
I suspect that some of you need a friend, and someone you know needs a friend. The best way to find a friend is to be a friend. Actually, you don’t find friends; you recognize them. Be on the lookout.