First Baptist Church of Rahway, 177 Elm Ave., Rahway, New Jersey 07065 is a multi-cultural congregation that has a Blended English Service on Sunday Mornings, a Latino Service at 12:00, and a Service in Telugu at 3:30PM. For more information, call (732) 388-8626. Or click here to send an email. If you wish to help the Mission and Ministry of First Baptist financially click the Donate Button.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Little Garlic Makes for Good Friends

There is no greater gift than that of a good friend. I have close friends who have supported me over the years through many of my ups and downs. I have friends who despite being separated by long distances are still a big part of my life. How empty our lives would be without our friends. I want to be the best friend I can be to all of these supportive people.

I met Peter while I was out of work. He had befriended my wife while working on his product. Peter created an amazing garlic spread, Don Pietro’s Gourmet Garlic Delight. He used to say it makes every meal a feast! It was a great product. Betsy worked in a food processing plant and Peter used to come over and make his garlic spread. The place smelled great. And Betsy used to come home smelling a little too garlicky good.

Peter needed a bookkeeper so he hired me. I would go over his house and wrestle with his company’s checkbook. I got to know him pretty well in a short period of time. He would tell me of his struggles to keep the company afloat. He went to small grocery stores selling his spread. Some people would give him some shelf space, others would tell him to get lost. He had battles over the location of the product. If it were too high on the shelf, nobody would see it. The place everybody wants is eye level. He would stand in the stores for hours and give out free samples. Most people liked it, but some would give him a hard time. Peter always had a smart-ass reply for anyone who gave him a hard time.

Peter is a wise guy from Brooklyn, NY. Verbally abusing your fellows is a right of passage there. I am a wise guy from Rahway, NJ. We got along great. He would give me a hard time and I would give it right back to him. He tells me that he can beat me in basketball any time he wants to, artificial knees and all. But I tell him that at 40, I am playing the best basketball of my life, and getting better every year. At 50 I’ll be ready for the NBA. Not everybody likes a wise guy, but both of us love the verbal sparring. Maybe it helps us to deal with the challenges that we face in life.

It’s great to have a friend who accepts you for who you are. If I start in with the wise guy stuff around anyone else but Peter I get into trouble. People don’t expect their pastor to make sarcastic comments. And I can understand why. I am held to higher standards in their regard. I am ok with this. But it is so nice to get on the phone with Peter, relax, loosen up and be a wise guy. It’s so wonderful to have a friend who accepts me for who I am.

Peter and I had big dreams. We dreamed of making the product a big success. He was going to mass produce it and put it in every store in the country. I was going to go to work for him, maybe even be a partner. At the time I was in seminary, and I even thought of putting off becoming a full time pastor until I made my fortune with Peter and his gastronomic success. We would become the Kings of Garlic. Everyone would know who we were, if only by the smell alone. Peter’s story would be in newspapers and magazines as a rags-to-riches story. Yes indeed, Peter and I had big dreams.

Things started to collapse for Peter not too long after I got my job back. Peter always had trouble getting enough of his spread produced. He would sign a contract with a company to package his product, and then they either wouldn’t do it, or the product would be lousy. Then he signed a contract with a grocery store chain to sell the product, and they ripped him off. In the end he was left with no more money and he had to fold the operation. All dreams end badly.

There are several things that I have learned from my friendship with Peter. First, a true friend supports you beyond what is expected. We have stood by each other through some pretty tough times. For Peter, watching your dream crash and burn was terrible. I had to endure some trouble when he wasn’t thinking too clearly. And when my life got rocky, he had to listen to me whine. I’m surprised that he didn’t slap me around some to snap me out of it. Second, a real friend accepts you no matter what. Some people just don’t understand me. But Peter doesn’t care if he understands me or not. He loves me even when I’m acting like an idiot. That’s what friendship looks like.

A close friend is a precious gift. A gift that we need to hold dear for the rest of our lives. Treat your friend’s right and you will always be rewarded.

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