[Chapter 1] [Order]

A Few Good Guys

 

I cannot even imagine where I would be today were it not for that handful of friends who have given me a heart full of joy. Let’s face it, friends make life a lot more fun. - Chuck Swindoll

 

IT SEEMED LIKE A BAD IDEA AT THE TIME. But a friend was listening and sipping coffee, so I thought I’d give it a try. “Hey,” I said, past a mouthful of muffin, “how about we get some guys together a few times a month for a reading group. We’ll discuss something serious like Plato…or Archie comic books. We can meet at my house.”

            The idea was met with a stifled yawn. “Phil,” said my friend, “I’m busier than a wasp at a barbecue. Besides, a reading club sounds about as exciting as watching cheese mold.”

            “Well,” I stammered, “how about we…uh…how about we get together and just eat. Ya, that’s it. An Eating Club. We’ll sample desserts, then have a lively discussion to burn off the calories.”

            “Now you’re talking,” said my friend, squeezing the creamer way too hard. “Sorry about that…here’s a napkin.”

            It’s been four years since I cleaned that shirt. Four years since the Circle of Six began convening almost every other Tuesday. For reasons of international security, I can’t say much, but I will tell you that each member has agreed to adhere to some strict guidelines as laid out in our red Principles and Procedures notebook:

Rule #1: Be there at 8:30 P.M. Unless you’re late.

Rule #2: Hosts will be selected in alphabetic sequence. If you are hosting the event, bake something. We reserve the right to watch you eat it first. If you choke, lose consciousness, or die, we will try to revive you. We will not, however, eat your baking.

Rule #3: If you bring a cell phone, we will take it apart and hide the pieces.

Rule #4: No talking about Amway or Mannatech. Unless you have a really good story about someone who sells it.

Rule #5: The food must be better than last time we were at your house. If this means your wife bakes it, that’s okay. No, your wife may not attend the meeting.

Rule #6: When we run out of food and things to say, the assembly is adjourned.

Tonight we’re meeting by candlelight for my wife’s cheesecake. It is available in three flavors: strawberry slam, triple raspberry rage, and death by chocolate. Helpings come in three sizes: the Ballerina, the Allegro, and The Cardiac Arrest. Collectively we have gained more than one hundred pounds in four years of Tuesdays. None of us quite knows why. We’ve also gained some friends. I wish you could meet these guys. A nicer bunch you’re unlikely to find. A better looking, wealthier bunch, perhaps. But these are the kind of friends you’d crawl through a minefield for. If I were heading into battle, well, I would take some Marines. But I’d want these guys to bring the cheesecake.

I’m realizing lately that the next best thing to being smart yourself is to hang out with people who are. When I think of real guys, I think of Vance, Ron, Harold, Hunter, and Dan. And when I think of the acronym G-U-Y-S, I think of the following characteristics:  

Graceful. You should see these guys swoop down on a dessert. Such speed, grace and elegance is seldom glimpsed outside ballet halls. But they are also full of grace when it comes to conversation. This is not Gossip 101. This is Sinners Anonymous. Overwhelmed by God’s grace, we are looking for ways to pass it on.

Understanding. Though we have come frighteningly close to tears on two occasions, if you come here looking for hugs and sensitivity, you may be disappointed. But if you’re looking for some timely advice, or a listening ear it’s great to be surrounded by a few wise guys.

Yielded. We sometimes disagree on child-rearing or music or automobile brands. But we share one thing in common. Each of us has handed the steering wheel over to God. Yes, we sometimes want to take it back, or offer suggestions on how to drive. But we’re learning. Together.

Successful. Tonight we got to talking about Stuff we wish we had. About riding mowers, and power sprayers, and hot tubs. Then we laughed. Though it’s easy to forget, success is not defined by the stuff we grab, but by the footprints we leave. Our incomes don’t define success. Our legacy does.  

It was slow going at first. Guys aren’t always comfortable talking about what’s really happening in our lives. We hide behind the weather and the Toronto Blue Jays. But before long someone removes his catcher’s mask and admits that he’s just an old sinner in need of God’s grace. And before you know it the clock strikes midnight and you’re all sitting around wishing it hadn’t.  

Tonight we talk about a friend’s failed marriage and what it takes to keep the flame burning. After we say goodnight, I sit on the sofa wishing that every guy on earth had this many friends. Guys who love to laugh. Guys who know that burdens are lighter and the path a whole lot brighter when traveled with a few fat friends.  

Now, it’s time to clean candle wax off my wife’s tablecloth. And, oh yes, I need to do something with this last piece of cheesecake. 

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