We have been celebrating our 60th wedding anniversary recently, which motivated us to look up old friend Bill C. Brown, because he was at our wedding 60 years ago. That was such great fun, to talk with Bill again, to tell stories of “back when.”
College friends are so important because they are our companions as we learn to be adults. We don’t want to take growing-up direction from our parents. As my uncle Johnny said, privately, as he built the store for his hardware business, whenever his much older brother, Ted, already a store owner, gave him advice, “I want to make my own mistakes.” So we rely on our peers to help us make our own mistakes, and learn from them. We are willing to accept help from our own cohort.
I assume that people who don’t go to college have a similar group of same-age friends with whom and from whom they learn, “kids” with whom they work and share apartments, but my experience was college, so it’s my college friends whose presence means so much now, as I recall how much it meant back then. As I get ready to leave this life, I cherish all the more those who helped me learn how to live it.
I know, of course, that the vast majority of my knowledge for life came from parents and other relatives, and teachers and neighbors and pastors and other such folk before I ever got to college. But it was Tom Cone and Jon Stroble and Bill Brown and Jim Barrett and Norma Sullivan and Jane McCollough and Jim McKnight and Max Eubanks, and especially Helen Karr, who helped me grow up when I thought I was already grown up. I did the same for them. We did it by listening and sharing as each of us made our own mistakes.
That’s the biggest barrier to growing up, isn’t it… thinking that we are already grown up. Some folks never get beyond the false adulthood stage. If we have good friends, though, who challenge us to grow up by doing so themselves, we are saved from perpetual adolescence.
We live in a new place now, where few old friends reside, so we have wonderful and delightful new friends. They are helping me learn to let go of life. But I give thanks for those friends of long ago, who taught me how to take hold of life.
John Robert McFarland
I recently had a conversation with a former student who is now a campus minister. She said that students have the same questions now that they had when I was a campus minister in the 1960s, starting with “Why am I here?” In the years of winter, the question is not so much “Why am I here?” as “Why was I here?”