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A sea of faces

By Debbie Ogunjobi

It is easy to be lost in a sea of faces, to be surrounded by people who make so much noise that you become deaf to the isolating emptiness that is just beneath the surface. I admire the people with busting social diaries and address books as much as I pity them. Where interactions with our fellow men are concerned we sometimes forget to test for depth of feeling, preferring to enjoy the surface glitter.

I was paid a backhanded compliment recently and in between digesting its double sides I began to contemplate the nature and depth of our emotional investments and commitments to those we call friends. Gone are the days when blood was thicker than water; these days family/blood are those who stand shoulder to shoulder with you in all weather.

For those who are going to espouse the weightiness of blood, I have two names for you; Cain and Abel. (Blood didn’t stop Cain from deleting his blood brother).  The back hand part of the compliment had to do with my perceived unfriendliness and while I obviously didn’t agree, the nice part of it was how loyal my few friends were to me and me to them.

It is my strong belief that people who have casual friends and amass a lot of back slappers and hosanna today acquaintances are the ones that are unfriendly as they denigrate the intention and covenant that is friendship. A friend in my opinion is a family member you choose.

They say you can’t choose your family and I am sure Adolf Hitler’s cousins could not agree more and even though blood ties us up with some people we would not choose; friendship is an avenue to create a new family tree that is less stressful and more supportive.

Discernment in my choice of friends is apparently what makes me weird; I don’t appreciate people who enjoy listening to other people’s gist. I don’t like bullies and I am not likely to keep the company of someone by whom I am intimidated . I think friendship should be effortless, almost like an old night shirt, very comfortable but not necessarily beautiful and attractive.

The most important attribute of a good friendship is the complete lack of judgement, if you ever have to adjust/change what you are wearing or be self-conscious about anything including finances and failures; you are not around a friend.

Trust is the major component of any friendship; you can’t call someone a friend if you can’t trust them. In the world we live in, trusting someone wrongly has led many people to an early grave. I think contented people are easy to trust as the evil normally starts with Greed. People who are not content with little will never be content with much.

I learnt a lot in the past few weeks; being around people with life threatening and life changing injuries affords you a lot of wisdom. I sat down to hear the horrific tale of a man with a crater shaped indentation on his head and he is brain damaged and disabled for life by a friend.

This friend decided it was better to club his friend and business partner to death as diamonds had finally been discovered  in a mine they both jointly owned in the Congo!! He had left him to die with a huge hole in his head and ignored all the cries of pain and walked out claiming they had been set upon by robbers!

The friendship that began as two young boys at the age of five was terminated 37 years later once greed set in. Being discerning about who to be friends with is a matter that could easily be life and death. Ask Twala(that’s the man’s name)he knows for a fact. I don’t deny that I may have earned the title of unfriendly as I am known to make a clear distinction between those I call friends, those I know, and those I know of but the case of Twala and so many others who have been cut down by unfriendly friends surely makes a case for reticence.

The world is a vast sea of faces, they are not all friendly, and they will not always meet your eyes and smile. Friendship itself is anything but easy, it’s an adventure that takes a lot of work, it hurts as much as any other relationship, but it is the bridge that carries one across over tides and turbulent waves. I have found friendship to be one of the most liberating forces ever.

A real friend gives you all the room you need to be all that you can be, even when you are sometimes a fool. A friend is the one who is not repulsed by your vomit and faeces but is there to protect and cover your shame. A friend is the bottomless well where all your secrets disappear into oblivion.

Lately I have had to examine the sea of faces that surrounded a very loved one, a lot of them have disappeared into the shadows but some have come out of the sea to weather the raging storm and stand firm with their prayers and their substance. When you are at your worst, down on your luck, the hand that reaches out to you belongs to a friend; a covenant partner; there to weather the storm with you and love you through it all.


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