Friends
M. Joseph Young
March 2004

  As I write this, my wife is off rescuing one of her friends.  This particular friend has lately found herself stranded in various places far from home; we aren't quite clear how she gets to these places, but on more than one occasion of late, my wife has given her money to get busses or buy gas or otherwise arrange to get back to her currently somewhat distant home at the shore.  Tonight she is stranded in a bar, about half an hour from us and an hour or so from her home if she had a car, which she does not.  She expected to meet someone there who did not show; with such money as we can't really spare but have in hand, my wife has headed out to rescue her, uncertain whether she is going to drive the added distance to the shore, put her on an expensive bus, or bring her back here.

  I'm used to it by now.  My wife is the sort of person who would do anything she could for a friend in trouble.  I think if one of her friends called from California and needed a ride, she'd find a way to arrange something, even if she had to drive out there from New Jersey (or send me) to do it.

  These interruptions of our lives can be terribly inconvenient.  After all, we're not wealthy; we struggle to make our mortgage and utility payments, and stretch to feed a large household.  Between my work and hers, we spend very little time together, and struggle to keep up with the problems of getting kids through school.  We've probably handed this girl near a hundred dollars, in tens and twenties, over the past month or so, and that doesn't include gas and time spent getting to her.  The most I've gotten from her is a friendly hello when we passed in Wal-Mart a couple weeks back, and I don't think my wife has benefited more than that.  Of course, this girl has helped us in the past; she helped clean our home when we were overwhelmed (we paid her for her help, but she was remarkable at it).  She's been a shoulder and an ear for my wife in times past.  She's always been an expensive friend, but she has been a friend.

  Is the ledger balanced?  Have we gained as much as we've given here?  I doubt it; but that's not the point.  I'm quite certain that I have friendships in which I have gained more than I've given.  Friendships aren't about balanced ledgers.  They're about caring for each other, helping each other when help is needed, suffering and struggling as necessary to pull each other through.

  It is as Jesus said, Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  I've always thought of that in terms of the ultimate sacrifice that He made, that He perhaps may be calling us to make for Him at some time.  Yet if I stop to consider it, I realize that sometimes I have to lay down my life in lesser ways for my friends.  I have to set aside what matters to me and do what matters to them.  My night has been disrupted, and my wife's has been thrown into chaos, and we don't know in what way or to what degree it will be upset before it is over--whether we will spend another half a hundred dollars trying to get this girl home, or entertain her at our house with a berth on the couch, or drive the several hour round trip to her home at the shore.  Caring for your friends means sacrificing your own interests, laying down your life for their sakes.  It is how we show our love for them.

  As I started to write this article, in the back of my mind it was headed toward another way to use the characters in your games to exemplify your faith--and it is that.  Surely having characters who will put aside their own interests for those of their companions is one small way to show what the gospel means.  Yet there are some ways in which that's too small a thing.  It's cheap and easy, really.  Anyone can have his character do the good thing, the helpful thing, the loving thing; giving up your character's hopes and dreams and even life to help his friends is heroic, but it's not all that big a deal.  Perhaps I am too harsh; but many players in my games with no interest in Christianity would have their characters do such things, just because that's what heroes do.  Yes, do that; but there is more.

  The more is that these people at the table are, presumably, your friends; at least, they should be if they aren't, so do something about it.  These are people for whom you should be willing to make sacrifices, and they should know that they can expect as much from you.

  My wife and I are in agreement that if any of our friends have an emergency situation, we will do whatever is within our power to help them.  Our powers are meager, but we're willing to make sacrifices, to lay down our lives, our interests, to rescue them.  We've done it before, and we'll do it again.  It just seems like the right thing.  I have a lot of trouble with that expression what would Jesus do? because it is too often asked about things where the answer is not more than someone's guess; but we do know that Jesus would lay down His life for His friends, and He expects as much of us.

  So bring your faith into your games, not just by illustrating it through your characters and stories, but by living it into the lives of your fellow gamers.

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