Someone once asked a great philosopher what he would rather have – a gift of money or a gift of friendship.
"Friendship," replied the philosopher, "because money is spent, but friendship can last forever."
Maybe this is why our greatest wealth is not measured in terms of riches but in our relationships. Friendship is the cement that holds the world together.
Friendship is so important we celebrate it several times during the year. February is International Friendship Month, and Old Friends, New Friends Week is the third week of May.
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The first Sunday of August was declared as a U.S. holiday in honor of friends by Congress in 1935. Since then, World Friendship Day is celebrated every year on the first Sunday in August.
As novelist George Eliot describes it: "Friendship is the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words."
That's a fancy definition for what we all know is central to our happiness. I can't imagine a life without friends.
I cherish the friends I've known since childhood. Along the way, I've met friends through business, travel, sports and the community. They enrich my life and, perhaps just as important, know they can count on me to be there for them.
One of the best books I've ever read and learned valuable lessons from is Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People." Carnegie wrote: "You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you."
To drive home the point, Carnegie tells how dogs have learned the fine art of making friends. When you get within 10 feet of a friendly dog, it will begin to wag its tail. If you take the time to pet the dog, it will become excited and lick and jump all over you to show how much it appreciates you. The dog became man's best friend by being genuinely interested in people.
Last September, we lost an NFL legend in Chicago Bears running back Gayle Sayers. I'm old enough to have followed his short but brilliant career. Yet what I remember most about Sayers is the memorable friendship he had with a teammate named Brian Piccolo, memorialized in the movie "Brian's Song." Sayers was black, and Piccolo was white. They were roommates when the team traveled, which was a first for race relations in professional football.
The two became very close friends and challenged each other. When Sayers hurt his knee, Piccolo helped his friend through a grueling rehabilitation. During the 1969 season, Piccolo was diagnosed with cancer and was in the hospital more than on the playing field. Sayers was often at his bedside.
After that season, Sayers was awarded the prestigious George S. Halas Courage Award as "the most courageous player in professional football." Sayers, Piccolo and their wives had made plans to go together to the annual Professional Football Writers' Banquet in New York, but Piccolo was too sick to attend.
At the banquet, Sayers struggled to speak and said: "You flatter me by giving me this award, but I tell you here and now that I accept this award not for me, but for Brian Piccolo. However, Brian cannot be here tonight. He is too ill. But Brian is a man who has more courage than any of us here tonight. I love Brian Piccolo, and I'd like you to love him too. When you hit your knees tonight, please ask God to love him too."
Shortly after that memorable night, Brian Piccolo died. These two tough football players had developed an unforgettable friendship.
Mackay's Moral: Good friends are like toothpaste. They come through in a tight squeeze.
Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive." He can be reached at www.harveymackay.com, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.