One of the more interesting phenomena that occurred during my bus trip around America is what I call, “Point A to Point B Friendships.” It’s not exactly a catchy title, but an accurate summary of a poignant observation.
The bus allowed for some pretty intimate conversations in a short amount of time. In general, I would be with one riding partner anywhere from 2 to 12 hours. It was always a semi-traumatic experience as the bus was loading for the next destination. “Who am I going to be seated next to?” “Will he/she be friendly? Interesting? Sane?” I would be sitting there scanning ahead to see who was coming down the aisle and silently saying one of two things: “Please don’t sit with me,” or “He looks stable. Hopefully, he’ll sit here.” Within minutes, you find yourself situated next to a complete stranger. You’re immediately thrust into a situation where you have two choices; complete disinterest or instant engagement in a potential new friendship.
I met a lot of great people as I traveled around America. In fact, I met so many wise and wonderful counselors that it began a dramatic shift in my perspective concerning my fellow human beings. I ultimately wrote a book entitled, Bus America: Revelation of a Redneck about the conversations I had on the bus and the way they changed my racist views. I was amazed at the willingness of people to share their lives with respect and kindness and for those same people to inquire of my view of the world. Each discussion was like a powerful lesson on economics, history, sociology, psychology, theology; all in the span of a few hours on a bus.
Before long,, though, that particular portion of the journey would end and my riding partner and I would part ways. There would be a quick, uncomfortable gathering of our items and we would move on to our next connecting bus. More than once, we wouldn’t even say goodbye to each other. It would just be over. I would always feel very strange having poured out my heart to someone over the course of those hours together, only to have them walk off into the sunset, knowing that we would never see each other again – literally.
In my journal, I wrote about how sad it made me to see this happen. I called them “Point A to Point B friendships.” It basically meant that we were partners in our travels from one city to the next, but that was it. We weren’t really friends; just two people trying to help one another get from point A to point B.
The more I thought about it, though, I began to realize that this is true of all friendships. We’re always going from point A to point B and there are people in between that help us get there. For example, my wife and I lived in Lancaster city for the first three years of our marriage. We were very close to our direct neighbors and also got to know many others on our block. We were always watching out for each other and helping each other shovel snow, move furniture, or reminding one another that it was street cleaning day so we wouldn’t get a parking ticket. Eventually, my wife and I moved to a house in the suburbs and as much as we promised we would, none of us stayed in contact. That can be a little disappointing, but the truth is that we helped one another get from point A to point B. For us, point A was moving into the city and point B was moving out. It does not lessen the value and importance of the time we spent together. It doesn’t mean we weren’t close and that it was all a sham. It just means that there was a beginning and an ending to that season of life. I’m thankful for those folks on our block and I remember them fondly. I hope they feel the same way about us.
Another example is college. I played soccer at Bloomsburg University from 1988-1992. playing collegiate sports is an intense experience, even for a D II soccer program. The guys on the team are like brothers; you live together, eat together, practice together, party together, and spend an inordinate amount of time just hanging out. There is very little of life lived outside of these relationships. Yet, graduation comes and everyone heads home to move on to the next stage of life and career. It can be a very traumatic experience to realize that you will no longer see these guys. All your brothers have left home and you’re on your own. Again, this can be a sad experience and we can pine for the past, but in the end, we all helped each other get from point A (college) to point B (graduation).
There are going to be many Point A to Point B friends in life. The reality is that we oftentimes don’t even know when and where point A starts and where point B will end. Usually, we see it after it’s already been over for quite some time. Because of this, relish the time you have with the people that are currently in your life. See every friendship as a valuable lesson in trying to understand others and the world around you. In your workplace, school, and community, meet as many new people as possible and begin a point A with them. In fact, maybe there’s an old friend with whom you’ve had a point B at some time in the past. Somebody you haven’t talked to in many years. Perhaps it’s time to start a new point A with them. As long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late.
Every friendship is a Point A to Point B relationship. Do all you can to create point A moments with people. In the end, don’t worry about point B. It will take care of itself.