Roller Coaster Friendships

Roller Coaster

I am not the kind of guy who holds up his hands on a roller coaster.  In fact, I’m just the opposite.  I hold on so tight, I leave fingerprints in the steel.  How do I know that flimsy restraint bar is going to hold me in?  Machines break every day, right?  I take no chances.

My friend, Tyler, on the other hand, is a lunatic.  He is “hands up” all the way.  That’s fine, unless, of course I’m riding next to him.   I learned this lesson the hard way last month when we spent the day with some friends at an amusement park.

We rode coasters together five or six times that day, and every time it was the same story.  Whenever the roller coaster banked on a curve, Mr. Hands-Up-In-the-Air turned into a human projectile and slammed into me like a sand bag.  Not just once but dozens of times.  It was like riding next to a 190 pound crash test dummy.

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Hot Foot

You have to be careful who you listen to these days, because you never know what kind of advice you’re you going to get.  Take yesterday, for instance.

I had to go to the ATM before work, but I didn’t have much time.  Unfortunately when I pulled up to the bank, heavy equipment blocked the entrance.  They were repaving the parking lot and starting by the ATM, but I didn’t have much of a choice.  I needed to transfer money to cover some checks, and I had to do it before the day got started.

Undeterred, I pulled into the other entrance and caught a bank employee as she was leaving the building.  She was wearing a suit.  She looked respectable.  I thought, surely this is a person whose advice I can trust.

“Is the ATM open?” I asked.

“Oh yeah,” she said, “The bank’s open all day.  Sorry about the mess.”

I still wasn’t sure how this was going to work.  The construction guys were paving right down the ATM drive-thru lane.  Obviously I couldn’t drive my car over, so I got out, walked over and asked the guy driving the big roller if it was okay if I went to the ATM.

“Sure,” he said, “Go on over.”

He looked like an expert.  He was wearing an orange vest and everything.  Surely this guy knew when it was and was not safe to walk on fresh blacktop, right?

By the time I made it to the ATM my feet said otherwise.  Hmm, that’s funny, I thought.   The blacktop is so fresh it’s still warm.  Halfway through my transaction, though, I realized it wasn’t just warm.  It was hot, so hot, in fact I was feeling it through my sneakers.

Every second I pecked away at the ATM keys, I swear I felt myself sink another inch into the pavement.  Visions of dinosaurs and tar pits filled my head.  I finished up my business, grabbed my receipt and yanked my feet free.

Back at my car I checked out my shoes, which of course, were now caked in blacktop and underneath that, melted rubber.  Then I started to feel it in my feet.   In fact 24 hours later I can still feel it in my feet.   It had actually burned me through my shoes.

I bet that construction guy does that to people all the time.  It’s how he gets his jollies.  He probably posts video of dummies like me on YouTube and gets a million hits.

Like I said before, you have to be careful who you listen to these days because you never what kind of advice you’re going to get.  It could be well meaning but misguided advice like my banker friend, or it could be advice designed to intentionally lead you astray so that your advisor can post video of you on YouTube with the title, “Hotfoot Harry and the ATM.”

Either way, you still end up in the same place.  Bad advice is bad advice.

Maybe that’s why the Bible says, “Walk with the wise and become wise for a companion of fools suffers harm” (Proverbs 13:20).  Of course walking with the wise is hard to do when your feet are burned, but if I’d had somebody wise with me to begin with, maybe I wouldn’t have ended up in that mess.

We’ve all heard it said, “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the fire,” but I say, “wise friends keep you out of hot situations.”  Good advice?  I guess it depends on who you ask.






Auld Lang Syne

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to name that tune.  You play a little bit of a song, and everyone tries to guess it, right?  Either you know the song or you don’t.  End of story.  

Oh, were it only that simple!

On a fateful New Year’s Eve ten years ago, my wife and I found ourselves locked in a heated battle of the minds over a party game called Cranium.  In this epic clash of champions, we men faced off against our much smarter wives and were getting blown away.

During this particular round, my teammate simply had to draw a card and hum the tune named on said card for the rest of us to identify.  The only problem was that the guy had no idea how the song went.  He’d never even heard of it.   Out of sheer pity one of the ladies hummed it quietly to him to try and help him pick up the tune. 

It didn’t work.  Imagine this poor bum just standing there sheepishly humming an indecipherable melody as the sand ran out on the timer for our round. 

Remember that I said it was New Year’s Eve.   You know, Dick Clark, big shiny ball in Times Square, fireworks, etc?   And the song the guy had to hum?  Yep, you guessed it.  Auld Lang Syne! 

Yes, that Auld Lang Syne, the Auld Lang Syne that’s been sung at every New Year’s Eve party on the planet for the past three hundred years or so.    It’s like showing up Christmas morning with no idea how to sing Jingle Bells.

Needless to say we lost the game. 

Granted, few of us know the words to Auld Lang Syne or what the song’s actually about, but you should at least be able to hum it before you’re even allowed to enter a New Year’s Eve Party.   C’mon, it’s the New Year’s anthem, for crying out loud. 

But what is the song about anyway?   What are we singing about as we ring in the new year?    It’s actually a song about friendship, about having ties with people that mean something no matter how much you’re separated by geography or time. 

Should old acquaintance be forgot, the song asks?  The implied answer is no.  The song isn’t just talking about casual acquaintances.  It’s talking real friends with whom you share a significant history. 

Do you have friends like that, people who you can pick right up with even if you don’t see them for years?   These are the people you call when something big happens, when someone dies or your marriage is falling apart or it seems like the whole world has turned against you. 

The Bible says that a friend loves at all times and that a brother (or sister) is born for adversity.  It’s hard to predict what kinds of adversity will come our way in the new year, but we all need deep, spiritual friendships to help us weather whatever storms we may face. 

Friendships don’t come easily for me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t need them.  What I don’t need is a million shallow associations.  What I do need are people who know me at a soul level, who are for me and believe in my potential to become who God wants me to be this side of heaven.  I also need people I can give to, sacrifice for and sacrificially love.  Otherwise I’ll spiral into self-absorption, living as if the world is all about me. 

As the old saying goes, the best way to make a friend is to be a friend.  That means reaching out to people around us who needs friends too.  It means taking time in our busy schedules to make a call, send a text or just invite someone over to hang out.  It means making ourselves available and vulnerable. 

This New Year’s Eve, even if we don’t know the words to Auld Lang Syne, and even if we can’t hum the tune, maybe we can still honor the intent of the song and begin to make some memories by gathering with friends old or new.   Will we settle for surface relationships in 2012 or will go for something deeper?  The answer to that question depends mostly on us.