Saturday, December 20, 2008

Judge of Character

It is my full intention of making this a very quick blog entry (which inevitably means I will fail). Today is one of my favorite days of the year, and I really should get about all of the things I have to do. My wife is infinitely patient with me and my sudden writing jags, (and she should be inducted as a saint at the end of her days for being so), and I appreciate her turning a blind eye as I quietly tip-tap-type this blog entry. Because today is about family and friends, not about writing. It's about connecting to people one-on-one, renewing old bonds and making new inroads. But I couldn't help myself. I wanted to talk about this very important day in my life.

I know what you're thinking: What day is that? Are you referring to Christmas? If so, you're early. Christmas doesn't happen until next week.

But no. I'm talking about Clan Christmas. Today, I get to go to Colorado Springs, where we have a pre-Christmas get-together with the group of friends that we call our "Clan". Or at least as much of that group as we can gather together right now. After all, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are for family, and everyone has their plans for that. So every year, The Clan picks a day sometime in December, before Christmas hits, to come together and celebrate the friendships we have held onto so strongly.

The term "The Clan" was coined back in my college days, meant to refer to this batch of friends who glommed on to each other through sheer inspiration. These friends dreamed each others' dreams, partook in each others' adventures, and formed ties that have stayed tight from then to now. Considering how easy it is to fall out-of-touch with the ones closest to us, I find this circle of friendship more amazing with every year that passes.

I went to a funeral yesterday, and the wonderful man who had passed away had a parade of friends step up to the podium and give eulogies. The eulogies were startlingly well-written, and you could tell that each person knew the honored man, Jerry, intimately, and had been moved by him, his warmth, and his inner strength. Each of them summed up what Jerry had meant to them, and attempted to give a view of Jerry's life to the audience. As each of the eulogists spoke, I found myself more and more impressed by the way Jerry had lived his life, and I wished I had known him. But the one thing that stuck with me was a paragraph that was taken, the eulogist said, from the writings of a native american whose name, unfortunately, I cannot recall.

The paragraph essentially said that the depth of a person's character is most accurately determined by his friends. Not by family, as one is born into their family. The blood of your brothers or sisters, fathers or mothers or grandparents runs in your own veins, and that gives intrinsic reasons to stay loyal to them. And not by your spouse or your lover, where the mating instinct drives you to them. But only, most accurately, by your friends. For these are the people you choose. For no other reason than your own will, you have bound yourself to them. And so there is no other reason besides your character to stick with them through hard times, through fights or long absences.

This struck me, and made me even more appreciative for the fantastic group of friends that I have. And it explained why today, of all days, is one of my favorite. I get to go and see those friends, catch up with them, and renew the connections that honor them as well as, according to one eulogist, my own character.

So here's to Christmas and the holiday season. May you all find your own vision of what that means to you. I know I will, starting today.


Eden said...

As a member of 'the Clan' I too consider myself fortunate to be able to surround myself with such amazing and talented friends. As hostess of tonights Clan Christmas I have been stressed out trying to make everything perfect. This is pointless. It does not matter how clean my house is, or if there is enough food and toilet paper (ok, maybe the toilet paper). What matters is that we have reason to celebrate such a wonderful circle of friends. Thanks for so eloquently putting that out there, and allowing me to redirect my stress away from mopping and start looking forward to the festivities.

Megan said...

Very well put. We are each other's family, but the family we choose. The people in this group have shaped who I have become as an adult more than my family ever could.

What I want to know is, when are we going to have a kids-free party so we can spend time with each other instead of passing a crying one year old back and forth? (grumble)