What’s your friendship radius?

Stephen Funk

Stephen Funk at his home on May 29, 2017

Ask yourself — are you a 5-mile friend? A 50-mile friend? A 500-mile friend? Or, is it endless?

What’s your friendship radius?

Lately I’ve been looking in the mirror and having that same conversation. And it all started with a ride home from the airport.

I was returning from a speaking engagement and needed a lift after an unusually late-night arrival. I live in the Shenandoah Valley, an hour from the nearest major airport and more than two hours — yikes — from the airport that offers the flight options I most often need.

As I was making final arrangements for the trip I called Stephen Funk, one of the friends I thought would be most open to a late-night airport run.

“Sure, which airport?” he asked.

“Reagan,” I intentionally mumbled. Meaning, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on the banks of the Potomac. Yep, it was the yikes option.

“Oh,” he said. “That’s outside my radius.”

I laughed as he explained that his friendship has limits. “I’m more like a 50-mile friend, maybe 75. You need at least a 100-mile guy for this gig.”

I kept laughing because I knew he was kidding. Funk ran the gag a few more minutes until he finally agreed to what I think we both knew was inevitable. “Of course, doofus. What time do you need me?”

That phone call and the promised ride home happened months ago, but I’m still chewing on the powerful concept. If everyone has a friendship radius, what’s mine?

In other words, how far am I willing to go literally and figuratively for a friend in need?

For the record, Funk’s friendship radius has proven to be endless. I’ve seen him buy car batteries for strangers, purchase and apply rash cream to a homeless man, and give more airport rides than every single Uber driver in D.C.

I have other similar friends who’d go a million miles in any direction for someone in a pinch. These men and women constantly ask, “How can I help?” instead of, “How far is it?”

Honestly? I’d like to be more like those friends with a radius as big as the planet. I’d like to be someone who doesn’t measure personal convenience against the perceived need.

Shame on me for ever privately wondering, “I wish I’d known every detail before saying yes … Why did they ask me? Sure, I have time, but I don’t want to spend it that way … Ask someone else … That’s too late, too far, too much.”

Obviously there are times when we have to say no. Real friends understand that we have our own emergencies, family needs and other genuine restrictions that might limit our radius from time to time. And, of course, we must have plenty of air in our own literal and figurative tires before we can pick up someone else.

I suppose what Funk and others like him have taught me is that we’re either trying to be like the Savior or we’re not. We’re either focused on things of the world, or we’re focused on things of the eternities. And we’re either focused on friendships with limits, or we’re focused on divine, eternal relationships.

It’s hard to imagine the apostle Paul asking his friend Jesus Christ for a favor and Christ hesitating or letting out a dramatic sigh while asking, “Yikes, how far is it?”

We’re not perfect, of course. Heaven knows we have a long way to go. But if being more like Christ is the ultimate goal, then becoming a friend with an endless radius is a pretty good start.

I think I’ve got some work to do.


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