Remember that great scene in “As Good As It Gets” when Jack Nicholson is trying to give Helen Hunt a compliment? They are sitting in a restaurant where he has just humiliated her about the dress she is wearing (without realizing he has been hurtful, which somehow, oddly, makes it worse) and after giving the issue a lot of thought he says: “You make me want to be a better man.”
I can’t think of a better compliment to give a friend. Most of the time we turn to our friends because they are fun to be with and easy to talk to. We can tell them what’s happening in our lives, share interesting ideas and activities, do things together, help out when they are in need and expect the same when we are.
But they don’t all make us want to be better people.
She’s one of my smartest, wittiest, kindest friends and she combines a sense of humor with a sense of integrity that is bracing and uplifting. Her standards for herself are so high they rub off on those around her. Even my vocabulary improves when I’m in her company.
When we were younger, her tongue could be sharp – occasionally I would make myself nervous thinking about it being directed at me (it never was). But after her son was born, something changed forever.
The wit and the insight remained – bright and polished to a high sheen – but the barb was gone. It was as if the love she felt for this tiny new creature in her life softened everything else in it as well.
I took this photo in the lobby of the YMCA where she often stays when in Delhi. It just happened it was in front of a picture of Jesus. Rachel’s not a believer. I am. And whether my friends are or not, what they all seem to have in common is that they live lives Jesus would be proud of.
And Rachel? When I think of her, I think how the saints go marching in. She makes me want to be in that number.