“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
- C.S. Lewis ,“Four Loves”.
May 1st will mark the 25th year of The May Club as countless friends accumulated throughout life join me in Key West for a week of fishing, scuba, sailing, snorkeling, and meals as frequent as those in The Odyssey.
Twenty-five years ago this tradition began in the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico and we have since covered: the deserts of Utah, bayous of New Orleans, lakes of Arkansas, mountains of Colorado, rivers of Oklahoma, and beaches of Texas.
When I was a kid I loved camp. I found these long weekends full of various excursions created the building blocks of friendship. Shared experiences give rise to fraternity. I am grateful to still have a few friends from those experiences nearly 35 years go. I wanted to recreate the friendships of my youth, and so began The May Club.
Every May a group of men that represent everything from millionaires to migrants, literally, head out for several days of acting like boys. Each day we are off on some excursion and in the midst of play we relax, catch up, chastise, laugh, encourage, and reconnect.
The greatest friendships of my life are represented in this crew.
Richard Sammons introduced me to the world as our friendship took us to his countless stomping grounds in Europe. Britt Lane encouraged me in business as an entrepreneur who made time for me. David Rutherford encouraged my faith as a man who worked hard and then was willing to make the leap into professional ministry. Darrin Kirby was a fellow traveler in business and life who I trust with my greatest secrets. John Pribble and Monty Jones are those friends who are constantly checking in on me and encouraging me in fellowship and word. Stephen St. Clair and I connected as we move through the changes of growing families and he was the example of a great dad. This list could go on up to 100 gentlemen who I’ve had the great fortune to be included in their lives and to have traveled with on a May Club trip.
The greatest writings on friendship come from Marcus Tullius Cicero from 50 B.C. Cicero wrote, “Yet such is the pleasure I take in recalling our friendship, that I look upon my life as having been a happy one because I have spent it with Scipio. With him I was associated in public and private business; with him I lived in Rome and served abroad; and between us there was the most complete harmony in our tastes, our pursuits, and our sentiments, which is the true secret of friendship.”
The Christian faith is the glue of the group, however, not shared by all. Faith is not a prerequisite, but faith is the motivation behind the actions of the group. There is a genuine care for others. “Friendship can only exist between good men,” states Cicero.
During these trips I’ve seen men come to faith and grow in faith.
Yes, we’ve voted people off the island. We have one rule, no a-holes. Act like one on the trip or elsewhere to someone in the club and you’ll find yourself off the invitation list. You have to work really hard to get the tribe to speak against you. You can count the number on less than one hand.
These separations have brought me much distress. Cicero writes, “It often happens that friends need remonstrance and even reproof. When these are administered in a kindly spirit they ought to be taken in good part.” Some do not take them in good part. We have much patience but eventually cannot suffer the pious, endless sceptics, proud, or those with alligator arms.
“Let this, then, be laid down as the first law of friendship, that we should ask from friends, and do for friends, only what is good. But do not let us wait to be asked either: let there be ever an eager readiness, and an absence of hesitation. Let us have the courage to give advice with candor. In friendship, let the influence of friends who give good advice be paramount; and let this influence be used to enforce advice not only in plain-spoken terms, but sometimes, if the case demands it, with sharpness; and when so used, let it be obeyed,” writes Cicero.
Some of our crew have passed from this life.
Jason King had a heart attack at 45. Jeff Lowery died of cancer at 55. I am afraid the reality is this will be a growing list in the years to come.
One of our evening events is known as “Toast Night”. We toast David Rutherford who was the first to join me, we toast the longest attendees and the newest, the oldest and youngest, and the memories of those past. It is a celebration and a moment of reflection.
These friendships extend well beyond a few days in May. I have celebrated with these men the birth of their children, the marriages of their children and the births of their grandchildren. I have wept with them through events such as: divorces, death of a parent, loss of a job, and debilitating illness. We have lived “life together”.
Lord willing, I will jump on a plane May first and for a 25th time have the opportunity to create a wealth of great memories with men I greatly love.