Once you've chosen your friends, you'll want to treat them as such. If you don't, you won't keep them long. Marvin Abrinica learned that the hard way in of all places – Woodstock.
When Marvin was in the 4th grade, his family moved to a new city, which meant Marvin had to make a whole new set of friends. One of the first ones he recalls was Jackson. As Marvin remembers, "Jackson was an awkward and clumsy guy, and into many of the same things I was, like Star Wars and Transformers and rock music. We hit it off instantly." The two spent many nights sleeping over at each other's houses eating pizza, Doritos, playing Nintendo and watching Headbanger's Ball on MTV when their parents thought they'd gone to sleep. They were like brothers.
When they entered their teenage years, however, Marvin expanded his circle of friends. As many teenagers do, he started spending more time with what he thought was the "fun crowd" – a group more prone to experimenting with alcohol than his best friend Jackson was. That complicated things. In particular, he and Jackson had been planning for some time to attend a concert together in Woodstock, New York, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the now world-famous event that took place there a generation earlier. They'd just graduated from high school and were ready to exercise some of their new freedoms. Plus some of their favorite bands were on the roster, so it promised to be an event they'd both really enjoy.
But about a week before the event, Marvin had a change of heart. Not about going to a concert. But about who he wanted to go to the concert with. He thought he'd have more fun with his new friends. And he would have asked Jackson to join them. But Jackson wasn't that much of a partier, and Marvin thought he might just be a drag on the whole affair. Besides, Jackson had other friends that were planning to go to the concert with him.
Well, now Marvin needed an excuse for backing out. So he simply told him, "I have to work that weekend." He admits it was a lame excuse. But at least it was a safe one. There were over 300,000 people expected at the concert, and the venue was a sprawling 600-acre dairy farm. As long as nobody squealed, it was a good plan.
Well, on a rain-soaked Saturday that summer, Marvin and friends arrived at Woodstock. The concert began and was everything he hoped it would be. He was in the middle of an "endless sea of teenagers jumping around and going crazy. It was like the world's largest mosh pit." At one point, Marvin's favorite band Primus took the stage, which took his excitement to a whole new level. During one of their signature songs "My name is mud" the crowd burst into a spontaneous battle flinging mud around like a food fight in a school cafeteria. It was the most euphoric moment of the entire event, and one Marvin knew he would remember for a lifetime. When the song came to a close, Marvin turned around still with an ecstatic smile on his face, only to find himself standing face to face… with Jackson.
"He just stared at me in disbelief. At that moment, we both knew that I lied to him – that I abandoned him. He'd wanted to go to that concert with me and I agreed to. It was a stupid and immature choice, and one I regret to this day."
The two stood there silently for a few seconds. Then Jackson turned and walked away.
At the end of the summer, Jackson went away to college. Marvin ran into him one winter break and apologized the way he should have done at the time. "He said he forgave me. But our friendship never recovered. And I can't say that I blame him. It was such a nasty thing for me to do. I'd known him for ten years, and I just threw it away."
"It's really ironic," Marvin says a couple of decades later. "I never really realized the value of being loyal to friends until I betrayed one."
Okay, this is another one of those lessons that might be better delivered when your child is in their teenage years. But whenever you're ready, here are some questions to get you started with the conversation:
How do you think Jackson felt when he saw Marvin at the concert?
How do you think Marvin felt when he saw Jackson?
What would you have done if you were Marvin? Would you have gone to the concert with Jackson, or your new friends? How would you have handled the whole situation differently?
Can you think of a situation where it might be better to lie than to tell the truth to a friend?
Okay, in the next lesson we'll turn our attention to how to handle bullies.