In my friendships I find not only enjoyment, fun, laughter and shared pleasant experiences, but a source of encouragement, comfort, inspiration and strength. Life, as we all know, has its share of hardships, disappointments, sorrows, stresses and troubles. How good it is to travel the paths of good and difficult times with friends who share the burdens and the joys.
I remember well an experience I had many years ago while accompanying a wonderful group of teenagers on a weekend youth retreat. A dear friend and I were walking along a wooded path beside a river. As we walked and talked about the beauty of the day and all that surrounded us, we came upon a tree that seemed to be lifting its branches upward, praising the One who had created and fashioned it while at the same time reaching down to us in,,,,well, a tree-hug! Together, we were blessed with what we saw as a lovely illustration of creation praising the Creator and at the same time blessing us. The sight of it and the thought of what it represented filled us with joy. Would I have noticed the tree or made the spiritual connection had I been walking alone? Maybe. I do know, however, that sharing this experience with my friend increased the enjoyment, deepened the symbolism and created a memory that still warms our hearts. My friend and I suffered much teasing from the young people with whom we shared the story of our tree, but it was worth it. In fact, that tree was visited many times over the years.... and not only by the two youth advisers who first found it while strolling by a river on a chilly winter day so long ago!
"Friendship is a sheltering tree." ~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge ~