I remember reading that in the quiet of the library, my eyes filling with tears. We'd been close friends for eleven years, and senior year of high school was practically done. My journal was packed with little scribbles from my friends, saying "Have a good summer!" and "Visit us when you're in college!". But the entry that stood out was from the one person I didn't think would write anything seriously sentimental at all. She talked about my strength of character, and how it truly influenced her life. She alluded to the story "The Outsiders", and to the character Ponyboy who was told to "stay gold" because of his strong, genuine and good heart. She told me these same words. I figured she and I would remain close friends. We'd continue to communicate and hang out and talk about anything and everything.
After a warped sense of "fixing" her problems, she fell into serious drug abuse (weed and smoking, and possibly alcohol), and started hanging out with the wrong crowd right at the start of our summer before college. I got her to attend a youth service at our church, and talked with her afterword, and she spilled with tears her feelings about everything going on, and how she felt detached from our friendship with not only each other, but another close friend of ours. I told her I knew of her bad influences, and bad habits, and didn't agree with it at all -- "I just really wanted to do something stupid before college started, but it'll end soon."
It never did.
Today when I was walking out of class, the smell of smoke instantly wafted in front of me, but that was expected on a college campus - smoking was allowed. However, I passed by this friend of mine who'd I'd just been musing on. Her eyes were sunken and baggy, her hair hardly maintained. The only reason she was dressed in black slacks and a white button up shirt was because she had a presentation due that day. Between her index finger and middle finger was a dwindling cigarette, the smoke trailing from her lips. We exchanged casual conversation; I didn't cast a judging gaze or condemning eyes, at least, I hoped. If anything, my persona probably read of disappointment and sadness.
Seeing her gave me a reminder of many things. Reflected in her dead-beat eyes was how I had failed as a friend to her. I wasn't spiritually strong when I was close friends with her; I wasn't headfirst in the Truth. She wasn't someone who was really bringing me down, but she was definitely not encouraging me and bringing me up like my friends now do. It was a dead friendship all throughout, only looking toward the goal of hobbies and interests. But even that was shot dead when her hobbies and interests trailed from safe to dangerous and drug-filled.
Walking past her and further to my car, I looked up to the sky and felt the warm sun and the soft breeze. It was all such a reminder that I need to be a friend to anyone and everyone who may need me. I felt like I failed her by not being the right sort of direct influence on her; however, that doesn't mean I need to disconnect and fail my other friends when they need me. However hard it may be, no matter how different they are, I feel like I'm stronger now to be honest about any problem they're going through, and adhere to God's Truth, not the truth of the world.
For them, I must stay gold.