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Be The Friend

Friends

Thirty minutes later life feels better than good, its great. All it took was a phone call from a life long friend after a home-made banana split sundae. I’d enjoyed an afternoon out with my son to see the preview for the 3D movie, Cirque du Soleil. On the way home we had decided to buy ALL the ingredients necessary to make everyone at home a full on banana split sundae including shaving cream. Yup, that was the running gag on the way home as I kept saying ‘Shaving Cream’ instead of a can of ‘Whipped Cream’. Thankfully we got the right one on the plate.

Now even though a dessert of French Vanilla or Hokey Pokey ice-cream over a fresh banana with fruit salad and whipped cream is simply the sweetener for the night it would have only been the anaesthetic without the surgery of a friend.  Sure, it was even better with marshmallows, Smarties and then topped with berry or caramel sauce but that little bowl of sin wasn’t what made the night complete. Satisfaction came from someone who chose to Be The Friend and called me out of the blue to ask us how we were. As we talked together about the ‘flat-tire’ our life is enduring right now we could hear the heart-felt care and the trembling concern from a beautiful friend.

I was the bumbling apprentice to the experienced Sensei

This is a unique friendship that was built on shaky ground in the early years. They were the youth group leaders, I was the wandering teenager, and the connection was based on a need to be heard and loved. For many years it felt like I was the bumbling apprentice to the experienced Sensei. I would often be rehearsing the ‘check-up’ questions in my mind before each visit, knowing I would be asked about various areas of my life, faith and walk.  This was the kind of love hate accountability I wanted and needed but never felt I would survive. I knew my own youthful fallibility so the expectation was a hand written self deprecating prophecy.

The environment that this couple created gave me a trusted space with responsibility to lead and create. It was comfortable and uncomfortable in the same moment as the fun of a youth group created trusted friendships while the Bible studies, and leadership responsibilities called us to grow, examine and review. Nothing stood still and through life, school, celebrations and head over handle bars bike accidents the relationship deepened.

Friendship is powerful to heal

Sadly it wasn’t a consistent journey and the stumbles stand out like eye sores on the memory’s landscape. I don’t understand why so much drifts out of my memory banks like an outgoing tide and yet the faux-pas events that happen on the stage in front of our friends seem to be etched like the dates of war battles on granite. I can clearly recall two events where my selfish motives broke trust, damaged relationships and rippled through time. It wasn’t just the moment, or the act, it was the response. When you know you’ve broken a bond of trust the eyes tell a story of disappointment.

Friendship is powerful to heal and I was on the receiving end in those early years. Friendship can cement itself between the years and visits to change what was a few bricks in the yard to become a place of protection. Today a phone call invited us back to that special place that still stands.

Can I encourage you to listen to the small voice that says; “Ring John” or “Give Jenny a call”. It’s not your advice that’s needed right now, its your friendship. There are two things that you can do and ‘Be The Friend’ that won’t cost you money, an ongoing commitment of your time or a sacrifice beyond the enjoyment of a tall hot latte.

Be The Friend: Ask How Things Are

I remember the advice of Greg Laurie as he spoke about how to speak to someone grieving. He said that ignoring the death is a mistake and to simply acknowledge the loss and repeat something positive that you remember about the loved one who has passed away. While speaking after a death is often the hardest kind of friendship activity this is good advice. If you know what your friend is going through then speak briefly and clearly telling them with empathy that you know and understand it must be difficult. Then ask “How are they going?” This first part stops here. Don’t over-think it or think you can do it better. Take a deep breath and slide on to step two.

Be The Friend: Listen First, Talk Briefly

A good friend knows that listening grows empathy and time means trust. If your friend can talk then just rest into listening and pay attention. Your ability to ask short brief questions based on what they’ve told you will empower  your friend that you are trusting their responses. Be careful not to question their actions at this point. Simply listening is allowing them to process more issues, ideas and paths forward than a night tossing on the pillow could hope for. If there is a moment to share your thoughts try to use phrases like “I’d probably” rather than “You should”. By keeping things centred on yourself you allow them to choose whether they take the idea or leave it with you. By using ‘probably’  instead of ‘should’ it allows your friend to decide on the timing of utilising your idea and making it their own.

This blog post is dedicated to the many people who have chosen to “Be The Friend” to the Pitchford Family over the years. Your listening ears, timely advice and warm welcome homes are what inspires us to be true to life, love and calling.

Thank You!

Now in the words of Ray Parker Jnr; “Who ya gonna call?”

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Observations

Do we have Empathy with Suicide?

A while back I mentioned “The Box”, a cardboard filing box full of old writings, poetry and creative work I had worked on particularly when I was involved in youth work at our local church. During that time I had a job working as car salesman at a local Toyota car yard and from a tragic situation I wrote the poem on this page called “My Friend of Eight Months”. Attached to the car sales was a mechanical workshop, a parts division and a Shell petrol station. While everyone worked different hours and the business embodied a wide range of personalities including mine, the focal point was a social room where people would gather for drinks and a game of pool after work.

It was here that I met a young man who started work at the petrol station. He was a great guy, always encouraging and seemed to constantly have a smile on his face and a spring in his step. Sadly it was this same young man who didn’t seem to have a care in the world who didn’t turn up for work one Saturday morning. He had committed suicide the night before after his shift. I don’t know what was the tipping point. I have no idea whether his burden was one he had carried for so long that he had found a way to make it look like he had it sorted out. Maybe something hit him that night or week that he felt unprepared to deal with.

Suicide is the hardest level of empathy. I know he deserves my understanding. He had my respect as a friend and a colleague. Sadly now there is no way to empart the empathy or listening ear that might have heard a clue or connected two dots to help him avoid this fate. We wish that there had been a way to connect him to counselling that may have seen him through the mire he was in. It may have come to pass, but for him counsel was either unavailable or in a place he could connect. I’ve tried now to listen better and be a better friend to others. I know I still get busy but I grew in a small way to think that a smile doesn’t always reveal a heart. As I dealt with his death I wrote this poem a little while after his funeral.

If you have known or have walked alongside someone who has committed suicide I’d love your thoughts in the comments below the post. Many thanks for being willing to share.

My Friend of Eight Months

Thinking back is to late and worthless
Except to remember the good
His pleasure of friendship
The wide smile of greeting
His zeal to assist me
The dry sense of humour

I wonder what life was like for him
All that can be done is learn
Urgency meant rush, rush, rush
His music turned to peak
Drive and get around alot
His style was loud to impress

Wish we could turn the clock back one week
But how would we know?
His manner was jovial then
Was he different to you and I?
His personal life quite unknown
Remorse and sorrow mix bitter sweet

Written: 16/3/1991
Author: Andrew Pitchford

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Observations

Up to Heaven

Up to Heaven

I wrote this when the father of a family I knew passed away. It was hard to see a soft quiet godly man die and yet you knew he was going to be with His Lord and Saviour. Sometimes words fail to express what is being felt inside.

Up to Heaven

I knew a man, so strong with silent features

Quite a man

He loved his own so dearly and even me

Quite a man

It’s hard to understand why God led him by the hand

Up to Heaven

But deep inside we know it was a better place to go

Up to Heaven

 

Author: Andrew Pitchford

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Media

Movie Review: The Grey

Movie Review - The Grey

So how does a survival movie fare with a pack of hungry wolves hunting their human prey? How do the audience feel when the humans are low on respect for life, their fellow man and themselves? Despite the feel that this movie had only one way to turn we still went along for the ride. Similar to the Titanic you feel you know what’s going to happen but you simply can’t look away and want to see it through to the end.
Looking at reviews prior to attending a movie review is considered wrong by most reviewers. I agree, the whole idea of attending the review is to judge the unobstructed impact on yourself and the audience. So what drew me to investigate “The Grey” prior to attending this review I don’t know. Possibly the topic matter of humans on the run from wolves meant I wanted to check the ‘scare’ factor to see who I would invite along for the ride. This presented me with a conundrum as the movie was rating over average but the general public who had seen it were split at the extremes. Some saw it as an existential masterpiece and scored it 9 or 10 out of 10 while others couldn’t believe the stupidity and scores ranking in the 1s and 2s followed.
The storyline takes us along with some of the roughest scum on the planet as they leave their work in the Alaskan oil fields to fly out for a break back in civilisation. After a plane crash puts them down in an artic wilderness its survival time with a the local wolf pack guarding their territory against the quibbling intruders. Liam Neeson plays Ottway, a hunter who’s been hiding from life in a job where his role has been to protect the pipeline workers from the hungry wildlife who stalk the workers. He’s a mixed up bag as he saves others but seems bent on his own destruction. After the plane crash he starts to try and bring direction and unity to the surviving band of misfits with no purpose. They are less than impressed with being told what to do and like any organisation, their disunity brings decay and decay brings death.
I’m not going to tell you the outcomes blow by blow, that’s the nature of this style of movie as one event leads to another as the ‘red-shirt’ members of the party fight to live. So why did the audiences love or hate this release. Was it the expected ending, the cast or worse the soundtrack. Director Joe Carnahan has proven himself a great director and for those who have enjoyed The A-Team and Smokin’ Aces its easy to see he’s putting out some good content as both writer and director.
[quote type=”center”] I’m concerned audiences are starting to see him as gravy beef [/quote]
If you’ve seen both of these previous productions you’d also be aware that their story-lines have their fair share of humour. That I think is where Joe went wrong even if it was without intention. The movie is visually impressive. The tension builds well as the cast look to avoid becoming top of the wolf menu and there is a reasonable amount of both humanity and distain built around the cast to make you want to see them survive or die. Where the movie fell on its face is a couple of times where the physical or visual result on screen was so outside realism that the tense audience burst out laughing. The story then lost momentum and I don’t think it recovered. It didn’t matter then how much strong language, gutsy characters or grotesque scenes you threw in, it still was off pace with the rest of the movie. All up a great movie spoilt by two episodes that probably take up one minute of the whole film.
Joe Carnahan has lots more to offer so I hope he learns from this outing. Another person I hope learns a lesson is Liam Neeson. He must be considered the ‘rabbits foot’ of the movie industry at the moment. The number of movies that require the ‘Neeson’ attachement is astounding. Since 2008 he has been in at least 18 movies and three TV productions of which three were voice roles. You can’t get away from the fact he is a talent but I’m concerned audiences are starting to see him as gravy beef because of the volume of appearances when he should be the scotch fillet. Lets get back to the quality we know and expect when we remember Schindler’s List.
All up a good experience if you like your movie on the edge.
3 out of 5 popcorns

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Media

CRASH – What a tangled web we weave!

Frazione Due Porte di Pavia (1)I sat up and watched this movie on Sunday night expecting to see an eclectic mish mash of stories contrived into a ‘film’ designed to profile ‘A’ list wannabe actors and former ‘A’ list try-to-be actors. Boy, was I in for a surprise, no wonder this dark horse scooped the pool. Despite the racist cynicism and a high degree of bad language, this movie impacts you in so many ways. The characters show how anyone on a bad day can make those eternal choices we all regret. Looking through the eyes of broken people we see how co-dependency doesn’t come only in the walls of that place we call home. The real challenge with Crash is to see life through someone else’s eyes. I’ll come back to this one, but I have to say the reason for seeing crash is to find out how we all need a ‘cloak of invincibility’.