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I spent a few days in a community that I lived in for over 8 years this past week. It was a reminder of the power of relationships. A place that is meaningful to me may not, in fact, be significant to someone else. The situation I am describing is metro Detroit. Say the word “Detroit,” and you will immediately elicit a reaction. Most people quickly recoil and say things like “ooh” and “I am sorry you have to spend time there.” They only know the Detroit they think they know. The impression is one of a city fallen on hard times, a place that people are fleeing instead, not a place that one goes purposely to spend time. Though Detroit is experiencing a vibrant come back, that is not the reason we went there for the Christmas holiday. As I told someone “I am going to spend the holiday in Detroit and not Florida because love is more important than geography.” You see, the reason we went there was not based on climate or geography; instead, it is a place where we lived and loved a lot of people. Relationships are the real gold in life.
It was brought home to me these past few days how relationships and a sense of community are vital to our well-being. As I recall the last 38 years of my “professional” life, I mark it in my mind not by the states I have lived in, but by the people I have known. My joy from living in each of the various communities is directly tied to the people who lived there. Learning certain things seem to be better received with age, for instance, people really are more important than things! You may think I am an extrovert, and naturally, I would prefer people over quiet. Yes, I have always loved being around people, and now I know the reason why: they really do matter.
My wife and I have family, and we love our families, we have people we work with that we likewise love and appreciate. Some people are friends that became family. My confession today is I am blessed to have known a lot of wonderful people. In my last article, I wrote about experiencing some difficulties this past year. Two things brought me through God and my friends!
Thank you to every friend and acquaintance in my life. You have made a difference. Because of you, I am a better person. You have left me better than you found me. Some of you entered my life for brief seasons, and some of you have journeyed with me for years. Regardless you have brought value to my life. In a sense, you have brought texture and color to my life. On this last day of a year and a decade, I celebrate the people I have met and known. Some of you I met in College or Seminary, others I met while pastoring and others when I was serving in other capacities. I have received much more from you than I gave, but I want you to know that I am eternally grateful for your friendship.
May the year before us be one of strengthening old friendships and finding new ones. Though it seems small and inadequate, Thank you for being my friend!

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