By Robert Creenan
It’s close to the end of the school year, which means another group of graduating students is heading out into the world. This means that friends you once had endless amounts of time for, now can’t be bothered. Friendships take a lot of hard work to maintain, especially when your life is readjusting itself. Luckily, this is something that Agape Latte has touched upon.
Over the course of this year, Agape Latte has presented various speakers talking about how their life experiences affected their view of God and Catholicism. The speaker on April 27th was Mike Hayes of Campus Ministry, whose topic for the evening was “Presents in Presence: Will Your College Friends Stand the Test of Time?” Hayes told stories about his college friends and, given how most of the people in attendance were graduating seniors, how they can last long beyond graduation day.
The first story Hayes told was about how one night at Fordham, his roommate Joe had a fight with his girlfriend and felt the need to travel to Brooklyn to see her and make up. This was decided on at 11:30 at night, and travelling required a 2 hour subway ride from the Bronx to Brooklyn. When the two arrived, the lights in the girlfriend’s house were out, and they threw rocks at the windows to try and wake people up with no avail.
Eventually, after continuing to wander around Brooklyn, they headed back to the Bronx. On the subway ride, they sat in the same car as a poor man who talked about how “they” took everything from him except the song in his heart. He started to sing “The Christmas Song” in a way that brought Hayes and Joe to tears. The two got back to their dorm at 5 am, with Hayes’ dad picking them up just a short time later. It’s a story Hayes tells every Christmastime. If the two weren’t friends, they wouldn’t have had such an adventure together, an adventure that sticks with Hayes to this day.
Hayes’ second story involved a different college roommate David, a stand-up comedian whom the other roommates regarded as “weird.” He had the nickname “Clockwork,” because every Friday at 5 pm, his parents would come to pick him up and take him home for the weekend. Hayes avoided getting to know David just because he seemed a little off. One day, close to the end of the year, Hayes and the two other roommates were told that David was in a hospital in Long Island with a heart condition. David would die 3 years after graduating due to a defect in his pacemaker. The point: Don’t miss out on any opportunities you have to make new friends. Every person presents an opportunity to find something new, to learn something, and to grow. Hayes urged students to jump at every such opportunity, moving past any preconceived notions.
The third story dealt with Hayes hanging out with Joe and Joe’s other friends. At one point, Hayes, Joe, and Joe’s friends would spend every Friday night at a bar. However, Hayes would be the one to call the other friends to ask if that was still the plan. As time went on, Hayes didn’t particularly like these people, and they didn’t notice his presence that much. So Hayes made a decision; they would have to call him if they wanted to go out. When two weeks went by with no calls, Joe finally called and asked where he’d been. When Hayes told Joe what happened, he finally said “Dude, that’s awesome. I should do the same thing.” If people won’t put in the effort to be your friends, then they aren’t your friends.
Hayes’ fourth story was about an old girlfriend named Georgia. The two mostly hung out because Hayes didn’t like his job in radio and Georgia didn’t like her TV job, so they wallowed in pity together. None of Hayes’ other friends liked her, and urged him to break it off. Eventually, the two did break up, and when a friend of Hayes tried to set him up with another girl, he wouldn’t have any of it.
At one point, Hayes ran into this group in a New York deli after a Holy Thursday mass and was forced to sit with them and make conservation with this new girl. She ended up becoming his wife. Sometimes, we’re presented with opportunities that we may not be ready or willing to take. However, things have a funny way of working out unexpectedly and these very opportunities may be just what we need.
The last story took place in the present day, with Joe asking Hayes if he wanted to go out for coffee at 3:30 in the morning. He was in Rochester visiting someone else and had a flight to Los Angeles at 6:00 am, with the middle of the night being the only time he had for his old friend. The two ended up going to a Tim Horton’s by the airport. Later, when Hayes’ mother-in-law died, Joe went to the funeral in New Jersey just to hug Hayes’ wife. Hayes said this was what it meant to be a true, dedicated friend: following one another through life, through seeing each other every day to seeing each other once a year, through victory and trials, remaining faithful and connected.
When all the stories were done with, Hayes said the presence of these lasting friendships is how he sees God. “If that doesn’t show you God’s presence in the world,” Hayes said with tears in his eyes, “I don’t know what does.” He said he considered everyone in the room to be his friend, and said graduations are hard for him since it means saying goodbye to a fourth of the student population. Still, he urged students to stay connected and remember one another as they disperse into the world.