It was Christmas Eve. I was in a hurry, trying to finish my work early and prepare for the evening with my family and friends, when the phone rang. I answered impatiently, “Yes, hello?”
“Merry Christmas, Lilia!” the voice on the other end cheerfully exclaimed in accented English.
It was 1996, and our family had just moved from the safety of Italy to a somewhat still troubled and unstable post-war Croatia, settling in a large apartment on the outskirts of Rijeka.
Our neighbors—a mix of refugees, widows, and elderly relatives caring for children whose parents had died or left to find work—had all gone through traumatic experiences as a result of the tragic conflicts that had only recently ended.
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help.
—Ecclesiastes 4:9–10 NLT
Servants don’t know what their master is doing, and so I don’t speak to you as my servants. I speak to you as my friends, and I have told you everything that my Father has told me.
—John 15:15 CEV
When I was a child, my mother used to keep a pile of clothes to mend, mostly belonging to us kids, by the sewing machine, and she would patiently work on them every Saturday morning. I have many happy memories of sitting beside her and learning simple sewing and making doll dresses. But the most important thing she taught me there was one day when she said: “Life is like this mending I do every week. When something goes wrong, you fix it; then if something else tears, you mend it, and that is how you get along.”
My nine- and ten-year-olds came whining to me again.
“Mommy, Chalsey’s taking all the LEGO blocks!”
“Davin always gets the best pieces!”
Kristy, my five-year-old, was crying. “It’s not fair! I want to build an airplane, but they won’t let me.”
What makes people crave a fruit like durian? Why do they light up when they see clumps of those prickly, greenish-brown husks hanging liberally from vendor stalls? How do they get past the pungent, even revolting, odor? What makes them fight their way through the thick, prickly outer husk in order to reach the inside?
The right friends are a huge asset. Charles Spurgeon once said, “Friendship is one of the sweetest joys in life. Many might have fallen beneath the bitterness of their trial, had they not found a friend.”
You might think that being that kind of friend requires you to do or say something amazing on a regular basis. But I’ve found that the simple act of showing up when needed is often what really counts.
There are hermit souls that live withdrawn
In the peace of their self-content;
There are souls, like stars, that dwell apart,
In a fellowless firmament;
There are pioneer souls that blaze their paths
Where highways never ran—
But let me live by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.
More people fail for lack of encouragement than for any other reason.
The finest gift you can give anyone is encouragement. Yet, almost no one gets the encouragement they need to grow to their full potential. If everyone received the encouragement they need to grow, the genius in most everyone would blossom and the world would produce abundance beyond our wildest dreams.
—Sidney Madwed (b. 1948)
This should be easy, I thought as I prepared to enter high school. I didn’t expect to have any problems making friends or interacting with my classmates. Unfortunately, my confidence was shattered on the very first day of school, when I met the boy seated next to me in class.