Because our society is so mobile our roots are not very deep. It is difficult to make and maintain meaningful friendships. Sharing common interests is not as rich as sharing common stories. People bond over common interests, but it takes years for people to share common stories. Chris Altman is one of the few people on the planet with whom I share common story. I wrecked his mini bike into the side of his house. We have been chased by a bear. We played on the same soccer team. We were there the night Eric Rudolph tried to blow up the Olympics.
Our stories began to be shared around 1982, through an elementary aged boys class at New Liberty Baptist Church. This weekend I got to experience how that relationship has come full circle in so many ways. On Sunday I had the opportunity to preach at the church Chris serves as youth pastor, Roopeville Road Baptist Church in Carrolton, GA. We only see one another a few times over the course of a year, but even still our kids have bonded well. To make the weekend even better my parents and Chris’ parents also came to Carrolton. They too have been friends for so long their stories are intertwined. Chris’ dad coached our soccer team. My dad’s responsibility was to bring a transistor radio with good batteries so he and Richard could listen to the UGA game. My mom and Wanda Altman have spring loaded elbows (according to my dad). They are consummate volunteers at our home church and I believe they were somehow responsible for half of the craft projects that appeared in the Graysville community between 1984 and 1988. Wanda Altman fudge is famous at the Branam house. Brenda Branam jam is famous at the Altmans. Somehow, early on, I nicknamed Chris’ sister Kristi Leigh, “Lou.” I now have a daughter nicknamed “Mo.”
While we were driving to lunch, Shannon commented on the rich blessing of generational friendships. Even though we are somewhat scattered now, we still connect at the root level. Even more incredible is that we continue to extend common stories through the same community where this all began, the church.