There is an old joke that a friend is someone who is there to bond you out of jail. A REALLY good friend is someone who is sitting next to you in the jail cell saying, "That was pretty cool, wasn't it?!" Well, I've never been in jail, but I definitely thought that a friend was someone who was fun to be around and someone that was there when you needed them---someone to lean on. And I thought I was a great friend. I'm fun to be around (or at least I think I am) and I'm always there to listen when someone needs advice. I have a great shoulder to cry on.
But, being a friend means much more than that. Mark Hart tweeted once, "The truest friends in life are the ones who won't let you settle for less---the ones who help you get to Heaven." Seeing that quote made me realize where I've failed as a friend in the past. Sure, I was a great friend in the fact that I listen to my friends and try to help give them good advice. But, too often, I gave them advice that they wanted to hear or advice that might help them with what they wanted but not what God wanted.
I have lacked the fortitude to do a good "buddy check." Gus Lee, author of "Courage, The Backbone of Leadership," says that before soldiers parachute out of an airplane they look each other over to ensure that all their straps are fastened so that they will be safe. He calls this a "buddy check" and that we are supposed to do that for each other so that we keep our buddies safe.
I've realized in the past month or so that I have friends who are willing to give me a "buddy check." They may not be friends who I talk to every day or text every moment--but they are there to keep me in line. It started at the end of January when I went to a lock in with my parish's youth group. My friend, Heather---the director of youth ministry---challenged me to racquetball. I knew going in, I was going to stink up the joint. I have no athletic ability to start with. And then you add in the fact that I'm fat, old and out of shape--lets just say, things didn't go well. I realized exactly HOW fat and out of shape I was. But, I had fun, the kids got a good laugh. And I got a black eye when Heather hit me with the racquet. (That's my story and I'm sticking too it!)
Seven weeks later, I'm still at it. I'm going to the academy to work out 4-5 times a week. Eating better (far from where I need to me nutrition wise--but better), reading scripture and spiritual reading most nights and I've been going to weekly mass and adoration. I'm starting to make new good habits, because of my friends who are keeping me on the right path.
My email now goes to ten different people and it's helped rekindle friendships. And that's what friends are supposed to do--they are supposed to help you keep on that road to perfection, even when it's tough. The biggest thing, is that I've learned to be a better friend. And all it took was getting hit in the face by a racquetball racquet (by Heather--I didn't hit meself)