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Other views: Darn good thought for Easter

So here's an Easter Sunday thought for you, a thought that changed the world: What a friend we have in Jesus. And it's a darn good thought no matter who you follow -- Christ, Mohammad, Buddha, or somebody you found preaching salvation on the Inte...

So here's an Easter Sunday thought for you, a thought that changed the world: What a friend we have in Jesus.

And it's a darn good thought no matter who you follow -- Christ, Mohammad, Buddha, or somebody you found preaching salvation on the Internet. Here's why. At the heart of that thought is a message about friendship. Possibly the strongest message about friendship the world has ever known. Basically this guy gave his life for the people he loved. Not sure I'd do it, not sure I'd want to be given the opportunity to do it; glad I'm not currently faced with the choice. However, I did learn a much smaller but nice thing about me and friendship from a quiz in the paper the other day. Maybe you saw it, too.

It was a test to gauge your priorities in life. Here's the bit. Supposedly there are five things going on at the same time and you have to rank them in the order in which you would take care of them. It was seemingly basic stuff like the phone is ringing, the baby's crying, someone's knocking at the door, there's laundry on the clothesline outside and it starts to rain, and a water faucet is dripping. But each one represented a key part of your life. For fun, I ranked them without checking what each thing stood for.

According to the answers I gave, here's how my priorities stack up: 1) family, 2) friends, 3) work, 4) wealth, 5) love life. Watching old Fred Astaire movies and listening to James "you've got a friend" Taylor weren't on the list, but depending on my mood, I've been known to sneak them both in before wealth. No problem with love life at number five. That got settled 26 years ago when I lucked out and hooked up with the girl of my dreams (also, now my truest friend).

I'd figured I'd score first on the family one, but felt especially good that friendship came in at number two. I like to think I'm good at it, but sometimes feel I'm either trying way too hard or just not hard enough. So not always sure it's a true number two. It's really for the other person to judge, anyway. Like with a dear friend who reached out to me recently. Reached out from 2,400 miles away. Actually, reached out from 35 years away.

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We knew each other in high school. Almost a teenage romance, but more important, an adult friendship. Years came and went with varying degrees of contact, but a few weeks back, when things were going a bit rough for her, she called. I was in Florida on business and picked up her message through phone mail. As soon as I got it, I took a break from the meeting I was in and called back. We only connected briefly, but told her wherever I was, if she needed to talk, we'd talk.

It wasn't much on my part, but apparently just what she needed to hear. Or so she told me in an email she sent the next day. Told me she loved me, as well. Ditto on my part, of course. But the deal is, she really did more for me just by reaching out, than I did for her. Just by making the call she told me what our friendship meant to her. The moral of course, is that you never know. Little things can be big things. Big things between friends.

So how do you think friendship is going in Iraq these days? For Saddam, if he's still around, I'm guessing not so well. I'm thinking this kid never had a friend growing up, and even if he had drinking buddies when he attended Thug University, he always had to buy. Not saying it would have made a difference, but even a pen pal in eighth grade might have helped (worked for me).

But that's not the real story in Iraq. That part of the world is a virtual hotbed of friendship right now. Imagine the lifelong bonds our troops are forming in the sand and the blood and the heat. That's not why they were sent, but what a wonderful byproduct. Friends watching out for friends, and from time to time, dying for one another. That's war, that's love. And that brings me back to our thought for the day this Easter Sunday: What a friend we have in Jesus.

Unfortunately, some would say as many bad deeds have been done in his name as good. But when push came to shove, even they would have to admit his ultimate act of friendship was done with the purest of all intentions. And that's a good lesson for anybody.

But hey, if that's too heavy for you, or your personal beliefs can't quite let you get there (not sure myself some days) -- how about we scale it down, agree to buy the basic premise, and tweak things a bit to: What a friend we have in "your name here." Now there's another thought that might just change the world.

Olsen, Fargo, is senior director, communications for Microsoft Business Solutions. E-mail molse@microsoft.com

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