I don’t know. Maybe it’s wisdom. Maybe it’s sentimentality. Maybe it’s simply old age. Perhaps it’s a combination of all three. Regardless, the older I get the more I consider the past. The more I reflect on my life experiences – the victories and defeats, the successes and failures, the gains and losses, the good times and bad, the easy times and the difficult times. More important than the life experiences though, are the people who shared these experiences, who guided me through these experiences, who walked with me through these experiences – my friends.
Honestly, I don’t know where I would be without my friends. I don’t know what I would be without my friends. When I needed help, they were there. When I needed encouragement, they were there. When I needed hope, they were there. When I needed inspiration, they were there. When I needed correction, they were there.
The friends I made in my youth, the friends I made during early adulthood, and the friends I presently have. All have enriched my life, all have influenced me, all have contributed to my development as a person. All of them continue to be, at least in my mind, my friends.
FRIENDS OF MY YOUTH
I am an introvert. I don’t enjoy crowds. I struggle to meet new people. I am uncomfortable with the unknown. I am also, by nature, relatively shy. While I have somewhat outgrown it, during my childhood and early youth, my shyness was extreme. This combination – introversion and extreme shyness – caused a lot of fear and anxiety during my early years.
I moved to a new town seven times during the first 17 years of my life. So, as you might imagine, this period of my life was fraught with fear and anxiety. I am so grateful for the young men who befriended me during that time. They helped me through the awkward pre-teen, adolescent, and teenage years. They made me feel comfortable. They allowed me to be myself. I remain indebted to them. Their friendship helped sustain me. Yes, they were friends then, but I consider them my friends to this day.
Thank you, Ken Schriner, Rob Fleming, Ron Waddell (R.I.P.), Ed Winters, and Tim Casey. You will never know what your friendship meant during those years.
FRIENDS OF MY EARLY ADULTHOOD
The 20 year period after high school graduation entailed a lot of activity, a lot of moving, a lot of uncertainty, and a lot of learning. I literally had to reinvent myself four times, becoming a submarine sailor, then an engineering student, then an engineer, then a patent examiner and a law student, and finally a lawyer.
My greatest support and influence during these years came from my wife. But I cannot understate the support and influence of my friends. They encouraged me to take risks, to persevere, to achieve, and to excel. Their encouragement gave me the courage to volunteer for, and make it through, six years of military service. Their encouragement allowed me (and my wife) to persevere through engineering school on a shoestring budget. Their encouragement gave me the fortitude to move cross country to live and work in the Washington, D.C. area. Their encouragement allowed me to believe that I could make it through law school while a working full-time job.
Yes, my friends facilitated great personal and professional growth during my early adulthood. But most importantly, they facilitated spiritual growth. They encouraged me to be a godly husband, to study the Bible, to be accountable to (and for) other men, to seek ministry opportunities, and to give generously and cheerfully to the church and to individuals in need.
Thank you, Alex Stroke, Scott Fleming (R.I.P.), Ted Brooks, Bill Lovejoy, James Harvey, Rich Chilcot, Sam Childress, Mike Morrissey, and Curtis Kirby. I am forever indebted to you for your encouragement. I am who I am today, both professionally and spiritually, due in large part to your friendship.
FRIENDS HERE AND NOW
In 2000, my family and I moved back to Arizona. Since then, I have developed new and deep friendships with several other men. These men, through their friendships, have furthered my personal, professional, and spiritual growth.
Some have mentored and counseled me; others have allowed me the honor of mentoring and counseling them. They have offered words of encouragement and correction; they have allowed me the privilege of doing the same. They have ministered to me, and allowed me to minister to them. They have inspired me. They have told me I’ve inspired them. We have raised our children together. We have traveled the world together. We have laughed together. We have cried together. We have played together. We have shared hopes, dreams, disappointments, and frustrations.
Thank you, Jim Lombardi (R.I.P.), Joey Acedo, Shelly Kutler, John Callahan, John Roberts, Danny Strickle, Jeremy Gillaspie, and Paul Lavino. I continue to grow into the man God wants me to be due in large part to your friendship.
Too many people, especially men, do not value friendship. They do not consider friendship important. They do not consider it a priority. They go through life with a lot of acquaintances, colleagues, or even “buddies.” But they never develop solid, intimate friendships. They have no one with whom they can share their hopes, their dreams, their disappointments, their frustrations. They have no one from whom they can receive encouragement, inspiration, help, and correction. What a shame. True friendship has immeasurable value.
I used to be someone who didn’t value or prioritize friendship. I thought I could live a meaningful life without deep, meaningful friendships. And I never considered the value of the friendships that I had or have. As I’ve grown older, and hopefully wiser, I’ve come to realize this is folly. I needed my friends to become who I am today. I need my friends to become who I want and need to become.
To all of my friends, whether named herein or not, I thank you. To all of my readers, I implore you to value your friendships. Whether you want to admit it or not, your friends (or lack thereof) influenced who you are; your friends (or lack thereof) will influence who you will become.