Not that many years ago, I hung out with a group of friends in a restaurant. Someone brought up a topic that set off one of the worst, heated debates that threatened to tear us all apart. Two of my friends were on the verge of walking away and never looking back. Every group of friends seems to come with one neutral individual who refuses to take a side, remains quiet, and listens. James was that friend. He interrupted the tense moment to ask us a question.
“Does anyone know how gold is purified?”
The question had nothing to do with what we were arguing over. James had, no doubt, learned this random piece of information, found it fascinating, never knew what to do with it once he had it, but needed to unload it.
We were the chosen ones.
“Gold,” he began, “is filled with impurities. To make it pure, it must enter into a complex process.” His visible passion for this topic held our interest.
What followed sounded like an essay he might have written in college. He listed places around the world where gold is mined, what it looks like in its raw state, and, most importantly, how a refinery removes impurities to transform the raw gold into pure and beautiful metal. What none of us realized was that his topic fit our situation as flawlessly as that purified gold.
Here’s a brief explanation of the purification process he shared with us.
- Gold is melted in a furnace.
- Chlorine is bubbled through the liquid.
- The chlorine attaches to impurities in the gold.
- The impurities move toward the top.
- Next, they are skimmed off,
- Leaving the gold more pure.
“Cool,” someone said, “but what does that have to do with our debate.”
“EVERYTHING,” James replied.
“The purification of gold isn’t different from the journey of a friendship,” he said. “In the beginning, while we’re getting to know each other, we come up against complications that heat us like the first step taken to purify the gold.
We bring our issues into the open, much like the impurities rising to the surface of heated gold. Here, problems must be dealt with. Once we have resolved those problems, we can skim them out, making our friendship more pure and beautiful and more valuable. Work through this moment,” he said. “because friendship is always worth it.” James walked out and left us to finish our debate.
That evening four friends grew closer to each other because of their renewed understanding.
THE ALCHEMY OF FRIENDSHIP
So it begins
with questions and interests,
and new ground.
Smooth and perfect,
the path before the friends
meanders around bends,
runs straight, and then
takes a turn.
an object lies in the path
daring to be touched,
easier to avoid.
One by one,
and the fire consumes the impurities–
burns them to ashes
they sweep away.
What remains is a friendship that
bright and true.
Leslie Leibhardt Goodman