In 1612, Shah Jahan was the ruler of the Mughal Empire in India. He was a mere 15 years old. He married another teenager named Mumtaz Muhal.Inspite of their youth, they had a beautiful marriage that included fourteen children. After seventeen years of marriage, his precious wife died. While in his grief, Shah Jahan decided to create a monument in his wife’s memory. It took two decade, along with 20,000 workers and 1000 elephants to construct the Taj Mahal. It was elegantly built of white marble and decorated lavishly in turquoise and colored marble. The eye-catching exterior was created by using semi-precious stones. It was quite an extravagant avenue to prove loyalty.
Loyalty, however, to be proven does not need to be so grandiose. Actually, sometimes it is the simplest of gestures that can carry one a long, long way. Showing others that they are valued is the crux of human integrity. It is where our conscience overrides selfishness and hearts are touched because of it. Our friendships are the equity line that can be drawn upon to balance our lives and strengthen our spirits.
The author and spiritualist, Henri J.M. Nowen profoundly said, “Every human being has a great, yet often unknown gift– to care, to be compassionate, to become present to the other, to listen, to hear, and to receive. If that gift would be set free and made available, miracles could take place.”
I had an outdoor book signing in Blowing Rock. A couple came by my table to purchase a book. We visited for awhile and I learned that they had been married for many years and all their children were in college. The man went inside the shop to purchase the book and left me to visit awhile longer with his wife. When he came out, he poignantly said, “You need to thank me. I just left you alone with the nicest person I know.” I watched them as they walked contentedly away holding hands. It wasn’t the Taj Mahal, but I’m sure she thought it was just as beautiful.
If we allow it, we all have opportunities in varying capacities to develop friendships throughout our lives as we interact as students, church members, in our neighborhoods and communities. By fortunate fate, I happened to land on the hall my freshman year at Meredith College with a great group of new friends'”a connection beyond words. Our incredible camaraderie and devotion to each other has spanned many years. And why not? We essentially watched each other grow up, as we camped out in each other’s rooms until late in the night'”sharing, caring, laughing, crying, bonding and nurturing. We serve as each other’s charity of choice. We are like a giant bowl of Brunswick stew, where all the ingredients are different, but necessary for unique richness and flavor'”a palatable combination with a mix of just the right personalities. We know each other so well that sometimes just a look will suffice as acknowledgment and understanding.
We’re always on the precipice of bursting into laughter'”the whoop-it-up, cheekbone hurting, unable to catch your breath, endorphin-releasing kind of laughter that extends our lives. After graduation, we have continued to linger on the same hall in our minds for the past twenty-eight years. We’ve been there for each other throughout life’s celebrations– wedding joy and the births of our kids. We’ve also been there during the sad upheavals of divorces and loss of loved ones.
In his book Out of Solitude, Nouwen said, “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
Loyalty, devotion and the expression of it far outweighs lavish white marble and will carry one a long, long way…