It’s funny that the God Squad asked me to give today’s talk about Friendship because it’s my job at this school to teach about argument and debate. I teach my students to anticipate what the opposition is going to say, analyze their weaknesses, and crush them in debates. Not very friendly.
But we have a saying in my class and that is in argument, you must first seek to understand, then to be understood. If you release yourself of the responsibility of trying to change someone else’s mind, then you are free to try to understand the other person’s point of view and this is a very powerful thing not only in class but also as we are making the effort to build community together.
Seek first to understand. Then to be understood.
Three nights ago an under the cover of darkness person smashed the windows of two Black owned businesses on the street where I live and raise my family.
The vandals smashed the windows of these businesses, slashed the furniture and sprayed swastikas and the N word on the walls.
One of these businesses is a BBQ restaurant that my family loves. Yesterday they reopened and the light of day people came from all over the county to support them. The line for lunch was out the door and down the street for five hours straight. The plywood covering their window was littered with signs saying things like WE SUPPORT YOU and NEVER AGAIN.
I got in line myself yesterday to pick up dinner for my husband and child. We placed our order and while we were waiting, they ran out of food for any new orders. Ms. Sharon, the lady who owns the place with her husband Glen, had to announce to the people who had been standing in line for nearly an hour that they couldn’t serve them. Then Ms. Sharon went down the line and personally hugged and thanked every single person who had been standing in wait.
I was shocked by Ms. Sharon’s level of grace and forgiveness. How could she be so strong, so unafraid? Where did she find the courage the day after a hate crime to hug all of those strangers?
We love you, people said. We love you, and we love our city. We love our community. This is who we are.
Ms. Sharon wore a pin on her shirt yesterday that said simply John 3:16. John 3:16 is the Gospel verse that states: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
And I realized, that’s where the source of strength lies for all of us, in the gift God gave us of Jesus’ friendship so that Jesus could show us throughout the Gospels how friendship is done.
So I look at what happened in my neighborhood this week and I ask myself, do we model friendship at Christian Brothers High School? Are we the kind of people that get so angry and twisted inside that we try to destroy others with graffiti, mean texts, offhand comments, resentment, and hate? Or are we friends to our brothers and sisters in scholarship, showing forgiveness to all, seeking first to understand one another and spread love?
I think this is a very personal question. I think this is a choice each one of us is faced with every day around here.
I will tell you what I have seen, though.
I saw two students on the opposite sides of the political aisle
Erupt into spontaneous dancing with glorious style
They danced together, never alone,
To the wonderful music of one groovy saxophone.
I’m telling the truth, this isn’t a game.
One friend lifted the other, putting Dirty Dancing to shame.
You may say we are here to work, there’s no time to burn
They may dance in your class Wanket but in my class they learn
But side by side in class and on the court
CB students stick together no matter the sort.
I’ve seen you go up to a classmate sitting with no one
Offering yourself as a friend because it takes one to know one.
I saw you listen with kindness when your friend was sad
And talk another down when he was mad
I saw you forgive your friend when she said something lame
I saw you forgive your teacher for calling you the wrong name
I’ve heard you brag that you’ve known your friend since you were small
I’ve heard you laughing at an inside joke from all the way down the hall.
I saw you cheer your friends when they signed on Wednesday
I saw you have patience with each other because that’s the friends’ way
I saw you give someone else a hand
I heard you when you said hey I understand.
You think no one noticed that you were kind?
You think when you need a friend there is no one to find?
Look around you, from there were you sit
There are people at this place who love you our party is lit.
Take off your mask if you’re brave enough to dare
And you’ll find you are surrounded by friends who care.
Friendship is a prize you’ve already won
Through the love of Christ Jesus God’s only begotten son
He is the Love, the Way, the One
He came upon this earth and he showed us how it’s done.
Within you is a light and it’s trying to shine
To be your friend is a gift so fine
I’m a friend of yours you are a friend of mine
We do as Jesus did and we walk that line
Because we are brothers and sisters here there and wherever
St. John Baptist De La Salle. . . . pray for us
Live Jesus in our hearts . . . . forever.