When the kid in the car in front of us got out and threw a beer bottle at our windshield, that’s when I knew we were in trouble. When another car pulled up behind us, trying to block us in, that’s when I wondered how we would get out of this trouble. None of this was in our plans for the evening.
The night started out innocently enough. It was Halloween but because we were in college we figured we were too old for trick or treating so we decided to do what any group of mature young men would do. We drove around town in a Honda Accord taking turns wearing a Halloween mask, sticking our heads out of the windows yelling at people.
When that got old, we parked in a parking lot where everyone else with nothing to do was hanging out. After a few minutes of deciding what to do next, we noticed a car that belonged to a guy we knew named Jason. We dared my friend Jeff to put the Halloween mask on and run over to Jason’s car and act like an idiot. Jeff accepted the harmless dare and walked across the parking lot in the ridiculous mask, jumped all over Jason’s car, did a crazy dance and started walking back over to us.
On his way back, we noticed that the plates on this car were from Georgia. Jason’s car had North Carolina plates. We started yelling at Jeff to run but he had no clue what we were saying or what was happening behind him. He was still walking like he was taking up the offering at church, well, except for the wearing a mask part. By the time the guy who was not named Jason and was not from North Carolina started closing in on Jeff, our friend figured out that something was wrong. He dove in our car and we sped off.
But we had company. I’ve always wanted to say that.
We spent the next several minutes driving all over the county trying to lose this guy who didn’t like strangers dancing and jumping on his car. Finally, on a curvy country road, we met our match. The car that we mistook for one belonging to someone we knew sped past us and slid sideways to block us. It seems that the driver had been watching a lot of Dukes of Hazard. Thankfully, his friends in the car coming up from the back seemed to grow up watching Little House on the Prairie and only blocked half of the road behind us. As soon as the beer bottle hit our front windshield, we were able to back up and head back to the safety of our college campus.
I don’t think I ever saw that Halloween mask again.
But a year or so later I would sit down for dinner with my friend Jeff and he would show me what kind of a friend he really was. I had a big decision to make and I knew what to do but I didn’t know how to do it. Jeff told me that making the right decision would not please everyone and it didn’t. He also told me that no matter what, he would be with me, and he was.
Jeff reminded me that there’s more to friendship than acting like idiots together and making memories. Jeff showed me that a real friend pushes you to do what’s right and is always there with you, no matter what.
There are other friends and other lessons from my younger days.
I spent my early teenage years following my friend Keith around the woods behind his house. At football games or the mall I would accept his dares to go up to older, more popular kids and ask them if I could have a ride home because my mom forgot to pick me up. Nobody ever said yes. Today Keith is in the Czech Republic and I think if he called me up today with a dare, I’d probably still do it. We don’t walk through the woods together anymore but it feels like I’ve been following Keith ever since. I’m better for it. Keith taught me that a great friend can also be a great leader.
There are also friends like Brian, Dan, Andy, David and Derrick. I think we spent somewhere around 73% of our teenage and college years at my house watching movies and drinking my mom’s sweet tea. When I had to preach my mom’s funeral, they were there. Afterwards, we all sat around a table, told dumb stories, laughed a lot and drank sweet tea. Friends share common griefs and the good part about those griefs is that they have a way of bringing us all back together again, even if it’s only for a few hours.
When my boys are older, I hope that they have friends like I did. I hope they have friends that stick with them, push them and teach them, friends that are worth following.
I just hope that on Halloween they stay inside, watch a movie and drink sweet tea.
And I hope that they do it at our house.
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 (ESV)