It’s been hectic. A whirlwind of activity and an endless to-do list has kept me from doing some of my favourite things. One of them is catching up with my best friend from primary school. Usually, a fortnight would not pass without us sharing a coffee -- a lifelong habit thanks to that fateful day in school, when the rain had driven us both indoors during recess, 46 years ago.
Deprived of the usual childhood games of catch, police-and-thief & hide-and-seek, we found ourselves on the same bench, watching the girls from the Red Cross practice their marching. Somehow we both thought they looked terribly funny and found ourselves in stitches, laughing hysterically at some unexplainable thing that kept tickling our funny bones. We connected immediately.
Last Friday, we managed to catch up at lunch time after weeks of not having met. We regaled each other with every little thing that had happened since our last chat. In that one hour, we managed to cram in all our highs and lows, joys and disappointments.
Driving back to work after lunch, I felt the familiar light-heartedness I usually feel after our meetings. I’ve always known what it was, of course. It was the precious gift of being able to share one’s deepest thoughts and feelings with another, knowing you’ll be heard. It was the luxury of being able to lay bare one’s own failings, self-criticism and insecurities in the safe knowledge that the other already knew them inside out and loved you anyway. It was the wonderful realization that no matter how life may have scarred and hardened you, your true friend would always have the capacity to see you for the shining girl you once were and still are, full of hope to be the best that you could be.
After our chat, I was reminded of the story I had read on the Internet about Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting of The Last Supper. It claims that he interviewed hundreds of models to get the right face for each disciple. The story goes that it was six years after he had painted Christ that he found a convicted murderer to be his model for Judas. When he finished the painting, the man revealed that he had been the same person who had modelled as Christ for him, six years earlier.
The story is unverified of course but its message is a dark reminder to me of how one’s life could end up despite our best intentions. Life changes all of us. But deep in each of us is that space of pure intent, a flickering spark to change the world.
Sometimes we just need to be reminded of it.
And all it takes a true friend.
How grateful I am that I have one.