We talk very glibly about gifts, the gift of painting, or baking, or music, the gift of a wonderful voice, or facility with words, the gift of teaching, the gift of … oh, all of ’em. Fill in the dots yourselves. But for me, today, the just about greatest gift (God first, obviously) is friendship.
Friendship. Some people are good friends. They simply are. They don’t have to work at it, or weigh it up, or reason it out. They simply are. Friendship pours out of them. They have that gift. They may not have it for everyone, indeed they can’t have it for everyone, but when they have it, they have it FULLY. Others may love you, they may desire the gift, and maybe they are approaching it slowly and steadily and in their own way, but they don’t have it as a natural part of their being. They measure it out, inch by inch. They do their best, and we can love them for that.
See this dog? He has the gift, freeflowing and unmeasured. See the bloke holding him? He has this gift too. Together, with another dog (matching in colour but not in size) they define friendship for me. They constitute a delicious, mouth watering, wonderful friendship. They make the day warmer.
We don’t meet often. We certainly don’t live in each other’s pockets. We are very very different. For starters, this one’s a corgi and I’m not. You may have noticed. But even the bloke holding said corgi is very very different from me. I’m an elderly woman (so Boris says) and he’s a (much) younger man. I’m uneducated and he’s too clever by half – he’s read the books when I’ve not even seen the films… he can quote long dead blokes from Greece (and he does). I’m straight and he’s gay. I’m unposh and he’s very nearly posh. He has a fluency of speech that I lack. He has style and I have none.
But we just get each other. He has freedom and honesty, a generosity of spirit. Today I am thanking God for him, for the dogs (his and mine) for the wild conversations (today we touched on Scousers, sin, love, temper, forgiveness, Les Dawson, too-much-information, judgmentalism and old blokes who won’t reverse down narrow lanes) and for his rollicking laughter.
What will bring us all through this difficult time? First, again, God and His love, and our dependance and trust in Him. But between us, you and me, today, what will bring us through? What will console us when we just want to weep, when we feel disoriented and uncertain? Friendship. Connecting. Generosity of spirit. Walking under the sun (being two metres apart does’t limit conversation, see above), and maybe – when it comes – trudging through the rain. Being outrageous. Being kind. Dancing ridiculously. Putting up with each other’s flaws and foibles (you lot have many, I have none). Being present even when we’re apart.
There are terrible sights in the world, awful moments of shock, and they will keep coming, we know they will; Yesterday I saw a photograph of a huge gymnasium turned into a hospital, and photos of lorries carrying away the dead, I read of people dying alone, today I read about a priest phoning a parishioner and saying “I am standing by your husband’s coffin, so that we can pray for him together and you can say goodbye.” These things move us to tears. Of course they do. Of course they do. The other side of love is pain.
But let’s not forget that the other side of pain is love. Love for each other. A balm.
Today I am thanking God for love, for friendship, for a corgi and a labrador, for two small white dogs, for conversation and blue skies and laughter. I’m thanking Him for my family, for all my friends, for the love I feel for them.
I’m thanking God most of all, most of all, that He loves me.
I’m thanking Him for family and church.
And for Les Dawson.