I have a friend of long-standing. We have known each other most of our lives having met the first day of an NROTC program in 1975. We went through college together, Officer Candidate’s School together, we started flight school together and ended up stationed close to each other for a good amount of my time in the Corps. We now live in the same state and I recently attended his son’s wedding just as he attended my daughter’s wedding a few years ago, the same daughter who is named after his wife. We have the kind of friendship that enables us to pick up wherever we left off, even if it has been months since we have seen each other. I think I could call him, ask him for help, and without any other information he would be there as soon as he possibly could.
We have almost nothing in common.
My friend is conservative in his politics, and I am more liberal every day. He is an international airline pilot, and I seldom get too far from the high plains small town I call home. There is probably a disparity in our income levels. I am a frequent churchgoer and I have never been quite sure what his religious beliefs are. He likes motorcycles, I like bicycles. He had a powerboat, I have a kayak. He is a snappy dresser while I abandoned style for comfort many years ago. He is even fit, while my never very athletic days are probably in the past.
We have very little in common.
If my friend and I were a Venn Diagram (beloved of English teachers), our circles would have very little overlap. The overlap is where the similarities are supposed to be. The sum of the total of our differences far outweighs the totality of our commonalities. And yet we have been friends since the day we met, have remained friends for 35 years or so, and we will remain friends until the day one of us attends the other’s funeral.
Where our overlap occurs are the shared memories of drill teams, NROTC, drinking parties, struggles of being newly married without much money, being deployed far away from home, and perhaps most importantly, 35 years of watching each other respond to life and life’s difficulties with integrity, values, and the best effort we could summon up at the time.
The overlap in the diagram is respect for the core values we have seen each other display over the years. Commitment, integrity, taking care of our families, paying our bills, remaining loyal to that which has earned our loyalty. Mike told me once that he respected my integrity and how I had stuck to teaching all these years. I would tell him that if I have integrity, I learned it from my friends, and most especially, from him.