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I’ve had a number of challenges as a human being, problems that might have seemed trivial to others but appeared enormous and life defining to me. As expected, my response in every instance would be to seek help the best way and from the most effective source.
Friends have played various roles in my daily quest for solutions. Sometimes they simply offer a solution and my once insurmountable problem would become so trivial, I literally walked over it. At other times they provide a distraction for the bothersome issue. With them, I can laugh and talk, perhaps watch a movie or take a stroll. While it lasts the problem lies in the background, harmless. Such breaks prevent problems from consuming us. For this reason, loners are more likely to be depressed, suicidal or suffer other such consequences of bearing a heavy burden. It is important to have people who can take our minds off the burden, even though temporarily.
However, for some of my most deep-seated problems, particularly those bothering on my personality, spirituality and outlook on life, I have found my everyday friends grossly limited. It is either they are themselves grappling with similar issues or they just don’t have enough knowledge and experience to be of much help. So we spend time together, ignoring our deep issues. Our interactions would be a safe haven for every one of us. Be it a loud group chatter in a room or a group chat on whatsapp or BBM, we would be temporarily caught up, out of our problems. I can comfortably infer that this is why some people, young and old alike, indulge in certain vices like excessive drinking and abuse of substances. Smoking and chattering in a group, emptying bottle after bottle of alcohol in a dim lit bar, amidst obscene natter, a person feels temporary relief from problems whose solutions seem elusive. Such behaviours become sustained when a person develops an escapist attitude towards challenges.
I have found solutions to a lot of my problems. I discovered another set of friends. They are humans as well but mostly older than I am, with more knowledge and experience than my other friends. Some of them live in faraway places that I have never been. There are dead people amongst them. Yet, they offer friendly solutions to various issues that bug me. Joyce Meyer taught me to “do things afraid.” It was in response to my problem of not trying new things for fear of failing. When I had low expectations from life, she said to me in a deeply personal way “this is what you should say to yourself everyday: if anything good is going to happen to anybody today, it’s going to happen to me.”
I find it uncomfortable to make excuses for not doing the things I believe I should do, regardless of how valid such excuses are. This was not always the case, not until Brian Tracy, a Canadian American told me point blank “No excuses!” Every time I want to procrastinate, I hear his words “Eat that Frog! Do that big thing now!”
Prayer had been an unsettling concept, clouded in mystery until Ernest Gruen came along. His simple but demystifying words were “God hears when you pray. Something happens when you pray.”
With these friends, I have become a better person. I have beaten the limitations of time and space to benefit from quality human alliances. I have also been able to help my other friends. When I share excerpts from my conversation with Joyce Meyer, someone else is helped, like I was.
I must mention that I get to chatter and cool off with some of these special friends as well. Some examples: John Grisham always offers a thrilling narrative centred on the American legal system. Together we rant about American lawyers in awkward situations. I also once accompanied another special friend, Francine Rivers to ancient Rome. While there, we jealously guarded the life of a young Jewish girl against some massive odds. Once also, with Chimamanda Adiche, I escaped my reality and joined a girl called Kambili in being afraid of her domineering father. At another time, I accompanied Ms Adichie to the late 1960s where we dodged the bullets and bombs and wept over the horrors of the Nigerian civil war. These are but few of my exciting interactions with special friends. Let me leave you with something William Ellery Channing said:
“It is chiefly through books that we enjoy intercourse with superior minds. In the best of books, great men talk to us, give us their most precious thoughts, and pour their souls into ours. God be thanked for books. They are the voices of the distant and the dead, and make us heirs of the spiritual life of past ages. Books are true levellers. They give to all who will faithfully use them, the society, the spiritual presence, of the best and greatest of our race”
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