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Capoey Lake - Essequibo - GuyanaCapoey Lake – Essequibo – Guyana
Photo by Marco Basir (Guyana Times International)


Have you ever noticed? We forge our most enduring friendships during our years of childhood innocence. During our high school and college years, we also develop close friendships with others who share similar family backgrounds, interests or ideals. We trust our best friends with our secrets. We accept our best friends with traits that others may consider intolerable because we see their beauty and goodness. We give and receive without keeping score or weighing the advantages.

As a high school teacher and an undergraduate, majoring in geography, at the University of Guyana, I met and became friends with Alex (fictitious name), a history major. A passionate political activist, he was influential in firing my interest in Caribbean political history and the struggle of the working class.

After my career as a high school teacher ended, Alex rescued me from my secretarial job at the Georgetown Head Office of a multinational oil company. He told me about an opening for an Assistant Librarian Trainee at the University of Guyana Library. I applied and got the position.

When I left Guyana for Brazil, I lost touch with my friends. Over sixteen years later, after migrating to the United States, I learned that Alex was a family man and had built a successful career in Guyana. His political activism had not abated. Desiring to reconnect with my old friend, I obtained his e-mail address. My e-mail message was brief. Lots of time had passed since we last spoke. He might not even remember me.

Alex’s response was taut. “Hello Rose. What can I do for you?”

Although separated by time and distance, I still hold certain friends close to my heart. Alex is numbered among them. While a friend may create waves in our life, we may be just a ripple in theirs.

What can I do for you?

This simple question from an old friend speaks volumes about who we are as individuals, our relationship with others, and the society we live in. In our capitalist world, we are far too often viewed merely by our usefulness to others: as voters, consumers of goods and services, workers, or the means to some undisclosed purpose.

It is no wonder, then, that we view the actions of others with suspicion. When old friends contact us, after years of separation, we assume that they’re looking for a favor from us.

I never responded to Alex’s e-mail. Some friendships are short-lived, acting as catalysts in our lives. I am thankful for the time shared with Alex.