Points to Ponder

Published 3:37 pm Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I have heard that there are several types of friends. The first is a friend of convenience. These are those people that we encounter along life’s journey. We are thrown together by work, school or church. We are accessible to each other. Because of our common bonds, we get to know each other. Our friendship is built on the place that we share. Often, the friendship of convenience comes to an end when that mutual environment ends.

It doesn’t mean that the friendship was good for both or that it wasn’t solid or beneficial. It just means that as times and circumstances change, you move on. These might be the friends that moved away or changed jobs. You exchange holiday and birthday cards, but you no longer share the daily events of your life.

There are also friends by association. These friendships exist because you have some association with a mutual friend. Your current friends introduce you to their friends and you become friends as well. You don’t necessarily share a strong foundation or deep knowledge of each other, but you enjoy each other’s company because of the common bond you share with your mutual friends.

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Both of these friendships add value to our daily lives. We share good times and memories that last long after we have moved away and the reason for our friendship ended.

Along the way, if we are lucky, we have a few of the rarest of friends; a friend of the heart. You are united by your spirit. This type of friendship is not driven by convenience or association. It is guided by a connection that is often a surprise to both individuals. It thrives despite differences in age, distance or gender.

This friendship is a gift. It flourishes on mutual respect and commonality of purpose. These friendships exist on a different level that allows each to peer into places off-limits to more casual acquaintances. These friendships allow a glimpse into the inner workings of each other, leaving imprints along the way.

This friendship of the spirit allows that connection that gives you comfort no matter what your state of mind. You draw assurance from each other not because of what you say, but rather because of the fact that you can say it. Your minds thrive as they explore uncharted territory.

This type of friendship was meant to be. It may be a surprise to both, but the friendship gives comfort for what ills and excitement for what is to come. No matter what the circumstances, these friendships last over time and distance.

Many years ago, my mother told me that when life gives you the gift of a great friendship, then you should tell that person. This leads me to the reason this column is being written this week instead of next week. You see, this will be the last Sunday that my pastor and my friend, Morgan Whitfield, will preach from the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church of Donalsonville. He has accepted a call from the Forest Presbyterian Church in Forest, Va.

Morgan has served this community for the past four years. Under his leadership, this church has grown and matured. We have plans for the future. God’s plan has never been clearer. This community of believers accepted a first-time minister and let him grow with us. We came to focus not on the past or present, but on the future and what our mission should be.

Along the way, Morgan became my friend. He allowed me to be a mentor and yet learn from him. He and his wife, Gwen, allowed us to share with them both good times and bad. They allowed us to practice being grandparents with their kids.

Morgan allowed me the extraordinary gift of being a friend of the spirit with someone a generation younger than me. He challenged me, not just about spiritual matters, but about politics, literature and life.

It was hard for me not to be angry, with either God or Morgan, when he told me he was leaving. That was the selfish part of me. Morgan’s extraordinary talents will serve many and God has called him to a new place. After a few days of reflection, I know Virginia is where Morgan and his family belong. I can feel their call and know they have responded.

His work is not finished in Southwest Georgia. Rather, it has just begun. The seeds he planted will flourish and grow long after Morgan has gone. We will be a better church. I will be a better person. Our friendship of the spirit will endure. God Bless You, my friend.

Who really deserves bonuses

This past week we handed out bonuses to many of our managers at our General Manager’s Rally last week. I know how hard they worked to achieve this recognition. They stand head and shoulders in my mind above those receiving millions in underserved bonuses on Wall Street.

Perhaps that is why the AIG bonus fiasco has stirred the anger of the American public so strongly. We don’t understand credit default swaps or securitized mortgages. We don’t know why banks and giant insurance companies deserve to be bailed out with billions of dollars of taxpayer dollars. We can’t comprehend trillion-dollar deficits.

However, we do understand fair pay earned for hard work. AIG and its $170 million in bonuses offend everyone who ever worked hard just to get a step ahead. The AIG payments are something Americans understand clearly and they don’t like it one bit.

If I want to look for a hero of commerce, I won’t look to Wall Street anymore. I’ll just look for the hard working guys on Main Street.