By Joseph Xavier Martin
When we were younger, we had friends who were involved in every aspect of our lives. We knew everyone in their families, what sports they liked to play, what subjects they were good at in school and even what foods they liked to eat. More often than not, we spent as much time in their homes as we did in our own.
It was the quality of friendship then that I much remember and think of most fondly. There was no thought of taking advantage of someone for an imagined gain. And if someone did fall into disfavor, it was usually a temporary state. Grudges were something unknown to us until we were taught about them later in life.
In high school, it got more difficult because dating and interacting with people of the opposite sex complicated our simple existence. Still, there existed a bond of brotherhood or sisterhood amidst all the urchins who streamed in and out of the nearby high schools. Oh, there was always some backbiting and bickering going on. Children will always act like children. But usually the squabbles were of a trivial nature and good relations were soon established again.
I think it was after high school when all of this started to change. Some guys went off to the trying experience of war, while others went off to college. The key factor here is distance. For the first time, many of us were no longer intimately aware of all of the goings on in the lives of people we had once known so well. With physical distance, there is emotional distance.
Marriage, parenting and career demands further divided us. We had lots of other things to watch out for and concentrate on. Once fast friendships began to fall into that “yesterday category” of things we remembered fondly from long ago. Time, illness, death and life events had changed all of us into different people. In some the changes are attractive. They had become more serious and more caring because of misfortunes in their own lives. In others, the vagaries of life had bred an anger and a bitterness at the seeming inequities of life and fortune.
As we drift in and out of lives we had once known so well, there is sadness at a quality of friendship now long gone and forgotten. But as adults, we have to realize that everyone else has children, grandchildren and others for whom they are responsible. It isn’t as easy for any of us now as it was when we were children. Maybe we have to slip back into that whole childish mode, where we forgave and forgot any perceived insults and slights so quickly.
I like to think that we all should follow one of the most estimable of life’s parables, that of the golden rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It is a simplistic approach to life, but a powerful one. The whole concept of “paying it forward,” “helping others” and “doing good deeds” springs from this simple approach to life. And from amity amidst individuals grows harmony amidst our larger society and even felicity of relations with other nations.
And today, whenever I see two or three children playing together and shrieking in laughter about something silly, I look at them both fondly and ruefully, wondering how and if I can ever again capture that unbridled joy that children have and express so well. Friendships, like those we knew in childhood, should be forever. Lord, I sure hope so.
Joseph Xavier Martin, of Williamsville, misses the closeness of school-days friendships.