What have you learned from your children? And equally important, what are they learning from you?
A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.
After the family, the next stage in our education about love comes from friendship. Most of us can remember how proud we were as youngsters to have a "best friend." As adults, too, we cherish our friends -- those special people in our lives who are there for us at the best and worst of times, who add the icing to the cake of our successes and bring light to the darkness of our sorrows. Rock music has paid tribute to friendship in songs like Michael W. Smith's "Friends are Friends Forever," Bill Withers's "Lean on Me" and the theme song from the movie Toy Story, "You've Got a Friend in Me," by Randy Newman.
The joy of friendship has been abundantly mine. I have been blessed to know some pretty amazing people thus far in my life, and for whatever reason, God has allowed me to peer inside the soul of some His finest handiwork. Friendship is precious to me, and I am deeply thankful for my many wonderful experiences of this kind of love. My childhood friends Natasha, Dee Dee and Billy are still a big part of my life today. Dee Dee and I share so many memories of past stages in our lives, and often reminisce and laugh about our days in disco dresses and halter tops, and the guys we were trying to attract (and sometimes did, with mixed results) by wearing them. Janey, my producer, is a friend who is closer than a sister. We were roommates for many years, she was my birthing coach for my last two biological children and we've worked together for the past eighteen years. I know if I needed a new lung, Janey would be the first to try and donate hers. And because of the strength of the love my girlfriends share with me, each week, on the air, I bond with my "Friday nite girls."
As you read about the friendships here, think about your own "friends of the heart," and the difference they've made and continue to make in your life. You may find yourself agreeing with Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said, "A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature."
"To Where You Are"
I have been a professional Santa for over 30 years now. I could tell you many stories, but there's one I especially want to share.
A few years ago I was at one of the Ronald McDonald Houses for their family Christmas party the week before Christmas. After I visited with all the children there, a mother came up to me and quietly asked me if I had time to go and visit her daughter in the hospital. Ashley was six years old and too sick to leave the hospital to see Santa, but she wanted to tell him something special. I told the mother, "Let's go right now!"
As we approached Ashley's room, one of the nurses told me the little girl had advanced cancer, and that her doctors didn't expect her to make it to Christmas. This took my breath away, and I sent her mother in ahead of me. Then suddenly I burst through the door with my sleigh bells jingling, and in a big, booming voice, I said, "Ashley, I understand you want to talk to me!"