The flurry of panicked screams jolted me from my daydreams.
I had been lost in the sights, sounds, and smells of the amusement park: listening to the gaggling din of the milling crowd; smelling the rich buttery popcorn; and watching a bright bunch of balloons as they floated by, tethered to the arms of the aged man selling them.
The screams shrieked from the hanging cars that zoomed by me as cages of twisted metal mercilessly jolted and corkscrewed their occupants. I felt the coaster’s taunting gaze as it raced past me – like it knew I would soon be a victim in its unfeeling jaws.
“Nervous?” my friend asked me.
“Nah,” I said – knowing she could hear the slight waver I felt in my voice.
“You can back out now. We can go ride the Merry-Go-Round.”
“Oh, you are funny. I’ve been waiting for Iron Corkscrewing Magnum Dragon Beast all year. I’m not about to back out now.”
“You sure? ‘Cause you are looking a little pale.”
“I’m sure,” I said, gulping more out of reflex than necessity.
As the awkward pause in the conversation settled, I once again caught the familiar aroma of popcorn. My stomach growled a reminder that I had ignored it for most of the morning.
“You smell that popcorn?” I asked my friend. “It smells great – and I’m starved. What do you say we jump out of line and get something to eat? We can come back later.”
“I thought you wanted to ride this monster.”
“I do. I’m just hungry, that’s all.”
“Stick with the line, bud. You’ll be glad you did. Besides, I’m not going to wait again.”
“Yeah, you’re right. Sorry about that.” As we had begun standing in line, my morning coffee decided to complete its journey through its own line, causing us to have to leave. We had returned to a significantly larger crowd.
I rubbed my stomach absently, nervously resuming my position in the cow corral until our turn finally came.
As the monster wrapped us in its metallic jaws, strapping us into the seat, everything in me fought to escape. I tried to wiggle my hands and feet – the only unrestrained parts of my body - as fear nibbled at my fingers and toes. Soon the fear turned to panic as it crept further up my limbs, its icy tendrils racing up my arms and piercing into my chest.
Then reassuring warmth rushed into one arm, a crashing wave chasing away the cold fear. Looking towards the source, I saw the welcoming eyes of my friend. I remembered all that we had been through together and realized this silly roller coaster could do nothing to replace that. I breathed a deep sigh as the small cart rocked forwards. As we climbed up the giant hill, I had a few moments to reflect on friendship.
Some people say life is a roller coaster. I say it is an entire amusement part. Yes, there is the main attraction – the coaster to conquer – the main purpose and plan in our lives. But it is not an isolated event. It is set in the midst of distractions to pull our focus away from that main goal. But one of the best assets in this setting is the constant companion – the friend – with whom you journey.
Life brings challenges – the full bladders – that draw our focus away from the main event. During these times, a friend will bear with our failings and suffer with us. Friendship is patience.
Life brings distractions – the enticing popcorn – that threaten to divert us from our goal. A friend will see these and keep our focus in place. Friendship is truth.
Life brings fear – unknown obstacles – that can cause us not to complete the call ahead of us. A friend will bring a presence that emboldens, encourages, and enlightens us. Friendship is faith.
A friend is the most valuable asset anyone can have. As the amusement park of life unfolds, we need to keep track of our friend – holding his or her hand and never letting them go in the crowds. We are patience, truth, and faith. We are friends.
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