Even as a young boy, I was filled with emotion at the tragic implications of these words. Within Quasimodo's hideously misshapened exterior lived a sensitive man hungering to share friendship and love. The object of his affection was the beautiful gypsy gift Esmeralda. Quasimodo risked his life to save her from wrongful execution and to protect her from evildoers. Reprieved, she was carried off by a joyful throng to marry her handsome suitor. Though an act of complete futility, Quasimodo so admired Esmeralda that he ventured to express his desire for her friendship and love. This elicited the deepest sense of pathos as one witnessed the resignation and sorrow of his broken heart. The poignancy of this wretched scene is that it manifests the fear of abandonment in all of us. No physical deformity can equal the condition of living and dying unloved and unlamented. The quest for love and friendship is innate. Albeit clumsy and unsure, the goal of friendship is pursued nonetheless.
The bonds of friendship may be forged in an amazingly wide variety of social settings and at any stage of life. Friendships tend to vivify the good in our characters: such virtues as graciousness, compassion, good counsel, and mercy. There is an awfulness to having and being a true friend - to stand before another, vulnerable and trusting, anxious yet cautious, uncovering one's dreams and one's fears, searching the depths of heart and soul. Given its profundity, it is evident that these ties may be dissolved under the weight of circumstances. Yet, friendship has persevered even in the face of great adversity.
The American Civil War revealed numerous incidents of how deeply savored was what was called by the poet Rupert Brooke, "the strong crust of friendly bread." The Class of 1861 of the United States Military Academy at West Point produced many of the leading officers of both North and South. The dissolution of the Union occasioned many tearful farewells among dear friends and classmates as most of the cadets from the southern states resigned and left West Point in order to serve in the armies of the Confederacy. These friends would soon face each other across some battlefield. One story of the strength of the pledge of friendship occurred during a battle in which members of the Class of 1861 were opponents. During a hiatus in the carnage, it was learned that the wife of Confederate general George E. Pickett had given birth to a daughter. Two of General Pickett's classmates-generals on the Union side-sent across the lines an engraved, silver tea set as a congratulatory gift to the general and his wife.
The ultimate statement on the value of friendship is found in Scripture. Jesus called his disciples (and all of us) around him and declared their (and our) relationship with him to be that of friends. Friendship is the nature of the "new and everlasting" covenant between God and his creation. This unprecedented affinity between the divine and the human represents for us the utmost relief, comfort and joy. How hopeful is that final Judgment when one perceives the fate of one's soul, contrite and longing, is to be placed in the hands of a friend. This reality gives one renewed energy of spirit and heart to battle against all that is inimical to the growth of faith and to feel reassured in striving to increase the degree of righteousness in the conduct of one's life. Of all the gradations of manner and mood, may it be that all those who populate this earth eventually believe in One, True God, possess one, true friend, and nurture one, true attitude: friendliness.