Friends and friendship
To reflect on the true nature of friendship.
by The Revd Guy Donegan-Cross
Suitable for Key Stage 3
To reflect on the true nature of friendship.
Preparation and materials
You will need a copy of the film Shrek.
The second story should be used with sensitivity as it involves issues of disability and suicide.
- Begin your assembly by saying we have three stories about friendship today. The first is from a film.
- Show the scene where Shrek keeps rejecting donkey’s offer of friendship when they first meet near the beginning of the film.
- Shrek doesn't want any friends because he basically thinks people won't like him anyway so it's safer to avoid them. Sometimes when people are unfriendly to us it's not so much because we are unappealing, but more because they have a low opinion of themselves. Most of us worry about what other people think of us and this makes it difficult to make friends.
- In an internet magazine recently, it said that only a fifth of women or girls feel satisfied with the way they look, while a quarter of those polled said that their self-esteem varied to do with the day or time of month. 'The results horrified me,' confided one. 'I can’t believe over half the women who answered have a problem with the way they look. What happened to "beauty is on the inside"?'
- Say that the second story about friendship is about a soldier who was finally coming home after having fought in the Vietnam war.
The young man called his parents from San Francisco. 'Mum and Dad, I'm coming home, but I've got a favour to ask. I have a friend I'd like to bring with me.'
'Sure,' they replied, 'we'd love to meet him.'
'There's something you should know,' the son continued. 'He was hurt pretty badly in the fighting. He stepped on a land mine and lost an arm and a leg. He has nowhere else to go, and I want him to come and live with us.'
'I'm sorry to hear that, son. Maybe we can help him find somewhere to live.'
'No, Mum and Dad, I want him to live with us.'
'Son,' said the father, 'you don’t know what you're asking. Someone with such a handicap would be a terrible burden on us. We have our own lives to live, and we can't let something like this interfere with our lives. I think you should just come home and forget about this guy. He'll find a way to live on his own.'
At that point, the son hung up the phone. The parents heard nothing more from him. A few days later, however, they received a call from the San Francisco police. Their son had died after falling from a building, they were told. The police believed it was suicide. The grief-stricken parents flew to San Francisco and were taken to the city morgue to identify the body of their son. They recognized him, but to their horror they also discovered something they didn't know: their son had only one arm and one leg.
- The parents in this story are like a lot of us. We find it easy to be friends with those who are good-looking or fun to have around, but we don't like people who inconvenience us or make us feel uncomfortable. We would rather stay away from people who aren’t as healthy, beautiful, or smart as we are.
- The last story is about a short man who had no friends:
Everyone in his town avoided him. Why? Well, not only was he short – and people who judge by appearances seem to have a problem with that, but he was also a cheat, and stingy with it. Anyway, one day there was a bit of a commotion outside and he heard someone important was coming to town. He wanted to see this person very much, but he couldn't see over people, and they kept elbowing him out of the way anyway. So he ran ahead and climbed a tree. The crowd got nearer and nearer and as they got under the tree they stopped. Jesus looked up at him. He asked to be invited to his house. He wanted to be his friend. Zacchaeus changed forever.
- All of us need friends. And probably a lot of us feel a bit like Shrek sometimes – that people wouldn't really want to be our friend. Many Christians are encouraged by Jesus' words when he said: 'I don’t call you servants … I call you friends.'
- Christians believe that if you want to know what God is like then you just look at Jesus. Jesus made friends with people, and that's what God wants us to do. In fact, he's especially interested in lonely people, people who aren't necessarily beautiful on the outside, and people who feel they want to hide from others – whether they are up trees or not. And the great thing about this friendship is that while our friends come and go, and some days we might feel popular, and other days we might feel unpopular, Christians believe God's friendship goes on forever.
Time for reflection
Ask your audience to close their eyes and remain quiet. Ask them to think about who their real friends are. Think about people you know who don’t have friends, and whether you can do anything about it. Pause briefly before thanking your audience for listening.
Dear God, thank you for your friendship.
'A man for all people' (Come and Praise, 27)