My father used to quote Proverbs 18:24 – A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. (King James Version). He usually did this, however, in conjunction with preparation for the annual summer youth choir tour, emphasizing the first phrase in his humorous attempt at giving a biblical foundation as to why we should make sure to use deodorant and bathe regularly while traveling. I will confess that I found it funny as a 14-16 year old.
My preoccupation with this scripture has reawakened in my early fifties, and it has become the second phrase that captures my attention these days. Reexamine it in a couple of more modern translations:
Some friends play at friendship but a true friend sticks closer than one's nearest kin. (New Revised Standard)
Friends can destroy one another, but a loving friend can stick closer than family (God's Word Translation)
Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family (The Message)
I just spent the last few days with friends that are as much my family as the family I claim by genetic association. I become increasingly aware that my life, my future, and my plans include these dear people. Clarification – my spouse and I have no children, our nuclear families are small and getting smaller, and our circle of "family-friends" are in similar situations. Perhaps this is, in some respect, the 21st century response to worries about end-of-life matters that were heretofore the concerns of one's biological family and children. Not perhaps. It is. At least in one respect. We often discuss (or at least infer) that we will be available to one another to care for each other's aging needs when that time arrives. But it is more than that. Much more.
We love each other like family. We "stick close" to one another – sometimes in better ways than our families are able. We are family. No topics are off the table for discussion. We communicate with an openness that respects one another's feelings, but also respects the person with a loving honesty. We have history with one another, and try very hard to make sure our significant others are privy to that history so they feel included in the family. We laugh, and cry, together. And we often laugh as we cry. I can't imagine my world without these people. Beyond my life with the Frau, my world is most complete when I am able to share our lives with them.
They are my Friends – "First Responders" – Family.