Thursday, October 9, 2008

Lessons from 'The Kite Runner' about being a friend

I have spent a working lifetime helping people, mentoring and teaching, encouraging and admonishing. I have grown immeasurably as a person during all these years. So much of that character development was affected because I was in the public eye, in a position of trust and example. I was as reflective and meditative as I had time to be. I now have more discretionary time to be reflective about who I am, how I became this, where I can improve and where it’s okay to be me. I wish God was finished with me but the changes keep coming. The other day the lesson was about friendship.

I remembered that “The Kite Runner’ received Oscar mention last year, so when I saw the DVD at the corner store I rented it, $2.99. This powerfully engaging story was Khaled Hosseini’s debut novel and best seller. Emotive themes about bravery, weakness, fathers and sons, friendship, betrayal and hard won redemption move through it. While told with fiction the tale develops from the history and culture of war torn Afghanistan. The book follows a young boy named Amir in the 1960’s. Amir and another boy named Hassan. They are childhood friends in the alleys and orchards of Kabul in the sunny days before the invasion of the Soviet army and Afghanistan’s decent into fanaticism. Both motherless, they grow up as close as brothers, but their fates, they know, are to be different. Amir’s father is a wealthy merchant. Hassan’s father is his manservant. Amir belongs to the ruling caste of Pashtuns, Hassan to the despised Hazaras. Hassan is as good a friend as Amir could ever want. Amir never fully reciprocates. An unspeakable assault on Hassan by a gang of local boys tears the friends apart. Amir witnessed his friend’s torment, but was too afraid to intercede. Plunged into self-loathing, Amir conspires to have Hassan and his father turned out of the household. Mounting ethnic, religious, and political tensions begin to tear Afghanistan apart. When the Soviets invade Afghanistan, Amir and his father flee to San Francisco, leaving Hassan and his father to a pitiless fate. Years later Amir has an opportunity to redeem himself by returning to Afghanistan to begin to repay the debt long owed to the man who should have been his brother.

For my own life with its luxury of reflective time, this story served as a parable. Friendship cannot be overrated. The Bible speaks much about friendship. The intimacy of God’s communication with Moses is that of a friend (Exodus 33:11). The wisdom of Proverbs 17:7 informs me that a true friend loves you all the time. I am reminded that a true friend sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). Self examination is not always comfortable but it is biblical. Through the years some people have been better friends to me than I have been to them. I am looking for steps to rekindle friendships. I struggle with memories of betrayal by people I regarded as friends. I abhor the human frailty and selfishness that propel us to squander friendships and leave broken ones unresolved. A memorable quote from The Kite Runner is the words of a friend Rahim Khan inviting Amir back to Afghanistan with these words, ‘There is a way to be good again.”

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