When I was young, I used to like it at Christmas when teachers let us make paper chains to drape around the room. I loved taking little strips of paper, gluing or stapling them together and making everything look festive. Part of the fun was making combinations...like every other one red or green. Even at that young age I remember getting frustrated when someone wasn't with the program and put two green or two red together. I was a little too much of a conformist at the time to fully appreciate individual expression.
That's certainly changed.
In my teen years, there were some really interesting fashion and hairstyles that I somehow survived somewhat intact. Not completely unscathed, mind you, but I did buy into the preppy look...which doesn't completely mortify me when I walk down Memory Lane. I still wear L.L. Bean moccasins and shop there regularly.
One of the styles from that illustrious decade was the gold herringbone chain that was worn along with the add-a-bead necklace. Oh, don't act like you didn't have one or date someone who did.
In my early married years, we joined a Sunday School class that was extremely wonderful in that we were all in the same phase of life, and we had those people who can actually plan and execute activities that everyone attends and enjoys in charge of logistics. I grew spiritually during those years and can trace many friendships I enjoy today back to that time. It was my first introduction to the concept of a prayer chain...a way for spreading critical news through the class and getting prayer warriors on their knees. It wasn't a visible chain...but visible changes occurred because of its existence.
A few Wednesdays ago, as I was walking back to my car after supper at church, I was thinking about the items in my car I needed to return and how awesome the grilled chicken salad I'd had for dinner when I was snapped out of my thoughts by the sound of someone calling my name. It was an old friend just saying hello, and we stopped for a few minutes to chat. She said that she was headed upstairs to teach a Bible study group and invited me to join her.
I did because there certainly wasn't anything particularly fascinating about returning a shirt to Dillard's. I ended up having a really lovely time.
It struck me that all of us are chained together in some way. Perhaps it is through memory, in real time, or because God has given us a purpose that involves the other. I firmly believe that my friend spoke to me that night not only because she is cordial...because she is. I think she also listened to the prompting of God to invite me because He knew I've been wanting to get involved with a small group as I've been away from a formal Bible study group for a while. He used my friend to move me back into the place where He wants me to be, and I'm enjoying the experience. Our bonds of friendship forged the way for the invitation to be accepted and for me to be ultimately blessed.
I used to hear a saying that there were three types of friends: friends for a season, friends for a reason and friends for life. I've found that this is very true...at least in my experience. I've had friends that I've been so very fond of, but I rarely see anymore because of time or distance. There was a time when we spent a lot of hours together contemplating life and at the time...assumed that we would always be close. But just because we no longer travel in the same circles, doesn't mean that their influence doesn't still linger. Because it does.
Other friends were brought into my life to teach me, lead me, or change me. Once the job was done...there was no reason to continue to be in touch. But I remember the friend from Troy, Laura, who called me most Thursday nights during her break between classes at AUM where she was in graduate school. She and I had survived the last two years of the finance curriculum at Troy and she started work on her MBA right after graduation. Those phone calls prompted me to take the GMAT and apply for admission just to shut her up. Getting my MBA in December 1988 was in part because she kept nudging me to do it because she wanted me to keep moving forward. I have no idea where she is now...but what I do know is that she changed my life for the better.
When I was ten years old, a remember watching a neighbor friend's grandmother crocheting, and I became fascinated. She took the time to show me how to do it, and I actually went home and practiced. Although I can only do very basic stitches, I've made numerous afghans in my life for other people because she took the time to show a little girl how to do something productive. In fact, I still have the first crochet hook I bought in Maxwell's dime store on the square in Thomaston all these years later.
Another friend of mine told me sometime in the mid-1990s that she envisioned me as a teacher. I don't know if I was grumbling about career advancement (or lack thereof) or if it was just one of those conversations that you have over lunch. But I was asked to teach banking classes shortly thereafter, and I accepted the assignment because I remembered her words. I ended up teaching for ten years after that until the run of banking classes ended. I still miss it.
Sometimes chains of the heart are formed through marriage. I have several brothers and sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews that share the same last name that I do. One of them is getting married tonight. We will form a link with another family as a result. I suppose that family falls into the "friends for life" category although this certainly isn't a given.
Oh, there are negative connotations with the term "chains" but mostly these have to do with being in a predicament that is against our will. We are chained to a desk, a burden, or a particularly difficult relationship. But those notwithstanding, the chains that we are pleased about are due to a conscious affirmation of the ties that bind us.
I like the concept of having those ties that bind...and envision them sometimes as being there to guide me when I am swimming out into the deep water. I can stay anchored with the freedom to explore life...but without fear that I can never make it back to shore.
These also providing me with the knowledge that God uses other people to get me through this journey called life. And their lives make a beautiful chain that may not alternate in the colors as I might expect them to, but they adorn it beautifully just the same.
Just like those paper chains did to our drab little classrooms in elementary school.