Friday, March 25, 2011

Make New Friends but Keep the Old

Strength for the Journey
March 16, 2011
Friends are God’s Greatest Gift

“Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold.”  My wife, Lynn, and I taught this rhyme to our son Seth when we were young and moving on a fairly regular basis.  My profession as a Boy Scout professional as well as our move to seminary and career change to the Episcopal priesthood, kept us on the move.  Seth, in his first eight years of life lived in eight different places.  We hoped this rhyme when the continual losing and adding of friends.

As it turns out, it not only helped him grow up with an appreciation of friends and friendship, it helped us, his parents remember and re-learn this lesson as well.  Again, “make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold.”

When I retired two weeks ago yesterday, I asked myself the television question, “now that you have retired, what are you going to do.” Instead of the typical “I am going to Disney World” answer, my answer was, “I am going to Mardi Gras in New Orleans.”  The reason: first I love Mardi Gras and how ready it makes one for Lent; secondly, having lived in “The Big Easy” for sixteen years, I have a lot of those “gold friends” there. 

While in New Orleans I spent time with many of those friends, many of whom I had “married” or baptized, or both.  I saw “babies” I had baptized who are now twelve and fourteen and sixteen years old.  I spent time with their parents, many of whom came to our church to be married and never left.  Many other wonderful things happened while in the Crescent City, and many golden relationships were renewed. One of these stories touched my heart in such a way that I want to share it with you.  Friend, Carols Zervigon, one of the first people I met when I moved to New Orleans in 1987 had died suddenly in December of last year.  I was saddened at his death and that I had not been able to attend his funeral.  Friends Karen Mackey and Mitch Bourque found out that the marching Krewe of “Kosmic Debris,” with which Carlos had paraded for thirty years was going to end their Mardi Gras parade by scattering his ashes in the Mississippi River. 

Karen, Mitch and I “joined” Kosmic Debris, put on costumes and walked with them, behind the brass band, through the French Quarter to the Moon Walk, where retired Bishop, Joe Doss, said a prayer, poured the ashes into the river and then as if to remind us that God’s gift of friendship goes on forever, performed a betrothal ceremony for a young couple, new friends, as they were beginning their new life together.

As the writer of the Gospel of John says at the end of his book, “if all the stories about Jesus were put together, this book could not contain them.”  The same is true of the stories of God’s gift of friendship.  This column cannot contain them.  So, stay tuned.  I just bet more will appear, not only from New Orleans, but from Beaumont, Texas and Bunkie, Louisiana, and the many other places God has blessed me by giving me friends, new and old, silver and Gold.

Ben Alford

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