So may you walk in the way of good men, and keep to the paths of the [consistently] righteous (the upright, in right standing with God) Proverbs 2:20
A wise fellow once told me that I would increase or decrease in life by my associations. Oh how true that has proven out over the years.
When my family moved to Oklahoma City in the early eighties, I started eighth grade. Everything was much bigger than I was accustomed to and I didn’t know a soul. But that changed pretty quickly after the first day. So many kids and yet no way of knowing what they were really all about on the inside.
A young man I’ll call James rode my bus route and befriended me that first day home. I remember being impressed with him; he wore designer threads (clothes) and had a cool hair cut! At that age, what the girls thought about us boys was pretty important, if you know what I mean. And let’s just say, James had a way with the “ladies.” I thought life was good with James in my corner.
That is until the day he invited me to the store on a Saturday afternoon in the fall. At the time, I only had a dollar to my name so I didn’t plan on getting much, just a little “penny candy” or a sucker. But when we got in the store James started using me as a shield while he stole an assortment of items. Not wanting to make a bad situation worse, I didn’t address him or act suspicious in any way. But inside, I was beside myself. I knew better and there was no way I wanted to be labeled a thief. Yet, I also knew, if I chose to stand my ground, I could very well lose the only close friend I had at my new school.
Reluctantly, I told James I would never be a part of that kind of activity again and that I didn’t want any of the stuff he’d taken. As I suspected, he lost his cool with me, called me some choice names and solicited his thug brother to teach me a lesson. Life was downright awful for a time and nightmares of being jumped by an angry mob consumed me.
Then one day, out of the blue and in the middle of the semester, we moved to a new school district and into a wonderful neighborhood. And that’s when I walked in the cafeteria and met the guy who would lead me to Jesus and whose family would inspire me to hope to be the husband and father I am today. Though we were just thirteen, David was a “good man” and is one of my best friends to this day.
At that time, I had no idea the impact that one very difficult decision would play throughout the course of my life. If I would have accepted James’ standards as my own so that he would think I was “cool,” chances were, I would have made crime and jail time a way of life like he did. Oh, how easy it is to travel the path of least resistance that seems free of rules and responsibility.
But how wonderful it is, in the long run, to follow in the steps of a good man. The path is rocky, steep and lonely sometimes, but the crowd that ridicules you on the way up, often are the same ones cheering you on and showering you with respect as you aim to walk the walk.