Wednesday, January 27, 2010


“As the first printed books were quite rare and valuable, it was determined early on that something was needed to mark one's place in a book without causing its pages any harm.” ~Wikipedia, “Bookmark”

“Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend - or a meaningful day.” ~Dalai Lama

I could have been friends with them.

Imagine the scene. A family is leaving your town for good. A good percentage of the population turns out at the airstrip to bid them goodbye. There are hugs, smiles, tears, “don’t forget to email me” …

You are standing toward the back of the crowd watching the single engine plane rumble down the grass runway. As the wheels leave the ground and it soars into the sky, disappearing over the mountains, you think to yourself,

I could have been friends with them.

Shortly after we arrived, one of the leaders here told us that he has found himself in this situation more than once … experiencing regret for what could have been.

“How long are you here for?”

I’ve been told that some people have asked this question of newcomers, not necessarily out of friendly curiosity, but out of self-preservation. If you don’t say you’re here long term, then, well, it’s nice to meet you, but I gotta get going. And don’t expect a call from me. I’m not interested in building a relationship only to have my heart ripped out when you leave.

I can understand why someone might feel that way, but how sad.

Transience is just part of the culture here, but I don’t want to be one of those people who watch the plane take off and wonder about what could have been.

Before I left the states, independently of each other, two of my best friends gave me small gifts: bookmarks. One friend bought two, actually – one with pink and green beads and the other with blue and green beads. She showed them to me and just as she, I thought, was about to hand me the green and blue one (‘cause she’s the more girly girl), she pulled it toward herself and thrust the pink one in my direction. “The pink one for you to remember me by and the blue and green one for me to remember you by,” she said.

Yeah, like I could forget.

A few weeks later, unaware of this previous gift, another friend gave me a lovely suede bookmark with beads and a miniature picture frame attached. With my mother’s help, I shrunk and cropped a tiny little picture of me and my friend to put in the frame.

And thus equipped, I left for PNG.

Two weeks ago, a new family arrived in country and moved, temporarily, two houses down from us. In addition to a thirteen year old boy and a four year old boy, they have a ten year old girl and a seven year old boy, the exact ages and genders of our own kids. When we heard this, even before they’d arrived, we offered to have them over for dinner to welcome them and answer any questions they might have about the great POC expedition upon which they were about to embark.

But, it didn’t end there. We greatly enjoyed each other’s company, and we really came to care for and love this family as much as you can in twelve days. We were very sorry to see them go, but glad for them that they are starting the next phase of the adventure God has for them. Following POC, they will not be returning to Ukarumpa, though. Rather, they will be moving to Alotau on the far southeast corner of the island of New Guinea where they will serve as regional center managers. We don’t know if or when we will see them again.

Yesterday they boarded the Cessna for the trip to Madang. Before they left, however, Kim handed me a small, bulging envelope. Enclosed was a sweet thank you card for all of the really selfish things we’d done to create a social life for ourselves while they were here (they thought we were just being nice, I guess), and a handmade beaded bookmark.

A wide smile spread across my face and I told her the story of my two friends who had given me bookmarks before I left the States.

She apologized. Guess she thought I had more than enough bookmarks.

No, no, no, I insisted! I think it’s great! A little twinkle from God’s eye, the way I see it. I love it! (Besides, someone who reads a lot can never have too many bookmarks, right?)

Each of these friends has been a very special part of my life, in very different ways. Each of the bookmarks they have given me, likewise, are very different, and will forever mark the pages of my life that these friends have graced. What if I hadn’t bothered because I didn’t want to have to say goodbye? What a treasure I would have missed out on!

No, the story of my life is still being written.

And I’ll take all the bookmarks I can get.


  1. Sharon, I loved reading this.

    I want to tell you about two women that I love.

    1. The first I met years ago when she and her family moved into our area and eventually joined our church. Her husband worked for a company that essentially told him he'd only be here for a couple of years. In face, it was one of the first things she told me, and I have often teased her about that. I have never met anyone so adept at making and keeping friends. I need to write her . . . you have challenged me.

    2. The second is a woman that I only recently met. Though we live within an hour of each other, our friendship has been forged primarily online. One evening she told me about a handful of her very close friends who moved away all within a very brief period of time. All of a sudden, she asked, "I have to know something. You aren't planning to move away anytime soon, are you?" We laughed, but I know there was a seriousness about her question.

    I am with you -- invest in those relationships for however long the Lord gives you together. Who could truly regret that?

    (I suppose this was a bit long for a comment . . . my humble apologies.)

  2. I also have a confession. I hate goodbyes. I cry so easily and my heart is easily wounded. A dear friend of mine moved away and I missed her terribly. Then she moved back here and I refuse to memorize her telephone number for fear that one day she will move on me again and there I will be with a memorized phone number I can no longer use. I admire your giving heart and am challenged by your message. Thank you so much for sharing. You are doing the Lord's work all over the world and you probably don't even realize it!


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